Case study of John Terrill’s leadership style

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1.        Using Hersey-Blanchard theory, identify John Terrill’s leadership style. What is the strengths and weaknesses?


1.1    Theoretical review of Hersey and Balanchard’s Situational Leadership Model


The Hersey and Balanchard’s Situational Leadership style or formerly known as the Life Cycle Theory, is a leadership theory that originated from the Ohio State Leadership Studies (Hersey & Blanchard 1982). The fundamental assumption of the situational leadership theory is that there is no single “best” leadership style that successful leaders are those who can tailor their way of management and leadership to the particular need of the situation. And the most influential situational factor in the theory is the maturity of the subordinate. There are two kinds of maturity that could together determine the overall maturity level of the subordinates: job maturity and psychological maturity. As suggested by Yukl (2006) that job maturity could be referred as the subordinate’s job-related ability, skills, and knowledge and psychological maturity measures the individual’s self confidence and self-respect in the work environment.


Figure 1 Hersey and Balanchard’s Situational Leadership style

Source: (Yukl, 1998)

As shown in the figure above, there are four levels of employee maturity or follower readiness they are M1, M2, M3 and M4 from immature to mature. M1 describes those subordinates with low competence and low work commitment which means that these employees are generally lack the required skills to get the jobs done and lack the necessary confidence before the tasks; M2 describes those who are willing to do the job but lack the skills and knowledge so that they need close guidance about how to handle the job; M3 are the subordinates who possess the necessary relevant skills to finish the work tasks but they are not confident to finish the job by themselves; and M4 represent those who are experienced at the tasks and also they are confident to do the job by themselves and what’s more they are willing to take the responsibility of the tasks (Martin, Cashel, Wagstaff & Breuing 2006, p.61).


Figure 2 Relationship between leadership styles and development in situational leadership

Source: (Wilson & Hanna 2002, p.193)


Hersey and Balanchard claimed that for subordinates with low maturity structuring management styles would work best and with the increase and progressing of the employee maturity the leaders need to decrease the structuring behavior and at the same time increase considerate behavior. When the maturity of the subordinates continue to rise to reach a high maturity then both the structuring and considerate efforts should be reduced to a low level and provide enough of room for the employees to be self-directed (Landy & Conte 2010, p.555). Hersey and Balanchard also provided four types of leadership as suggestions to deal with the four levels of employee maturity respectively: S1 (telling or directive), S2 (selling or coaching), S3 (participating or supporting) and S4 (Delegating).


1.2    Case analysis: John Terrill’s participating/supporting leadership style


As in the case of DGL, John Terrill is using the S3 (participating or supporting) leadership and the proofs from the case show that this leadership style fit well in the situation created in the case in term of fitting into a M3 maturity level which describes subordinates who possess the necessary relevant skills to finish the work tasks but they are not confident to finish the job by themselves. Now we begin with the examination of the proofs suggesting a M3 maturity level: On one hand, as mentioned in the case that the technical engineers are the highest paid and best educated employees in the DGL International, it should be considered that the engineers in the Technical Services Division are having the necessary skills and capabilities to finish the job by themselves; on the other hand, from the heavily complaints about the unreasonable large workload of report writing and the fact that they are low productive we can see that the engineers lack the support and considerate efforts from the management.


With the analysis above, we can conclude that the employee maturity level is M3 (High Competence and Variable Commitment) and according to Hersey and Balanchard’s Situational Leadership theory, in the situation of M3 level in the subordinates, the S3 participating/supporting leadership style works best and is the most effective leadership style under such circumstances. Below, we will provide the evident to support such judgment. Firstly, John Terrill passes the day-to-day decisions to the engineers and leave along their job by themselves which suggests that he is doing very little in term of providing directive behavior; Secondly, the fact that John Terrill shows great concern for the employees’ personal welfare and care about why they could not perform with the initiative to provide support to them shows that he is investing a lot of efforts in the job of providing supportive behavior to the subordinates so that John Terrill is acting the leadership style of participating/supporting leaders.


1.3    Strengths and weaknesses of participating/supporting leadership style


There are advantages and disadvantages of using participating/supporting leadership which is a low task but high relationship style in the work place under a M3 level of employee maturity. On the positive side, because of the situation that individuals have variable commitment to the work and do not need much skill development, adopting a participating/supporting leadership style could help the leaders to focus on building the confidence and motivation (O’Connell & Cuthbertson 2009, p.114) that is high desired in case of a M3 level of employee maturity level; on the negative side, too much considerate efforts being invested on the employees could result in over demand from the employees which will result in costly consequences and obviously this is not desired by the organizations because high employee performance with well controlled low cost is what the management hope but meeting the needs of the employees would represents more time, efforts and resources being spent on such considerate behaviors.




2.        What do you think was John Terrill’s primary source of power? Do you think it is effective?


2.1    Theoretical review of the major source of power in the business environment


2.1.1            Definition of power as a business concept


Power could be referred as the potential ability of one person (or department) to influence other people (or department) to carry out orders or to do something they would not otherwise have done (Daft 2008, p.497). Another similar definition of power is that power is the ability to achieve goals or outcomes that power holders desire (Daft & Lane 2008, p.363). According to French and Raven (1960) there are five kinds of power which could be found in the managers and leaders in the organizations: Legitimate power, Reward power, Coercive power, Expert power and Referent power. The classification of the power is illustrated below from which we can see that three major source of power, i.e. Legitimate power, Reward power and Coercive power are described as position power which are defined to a large degree by the company’s formal policies and procedures, are differentiated from position to position; and Expert power and Referent power are personal power which are defined by the leaders’ personal special knowledge and personal characteristics.


Figure 3 French and Raven (1960)’s five common forms of power

Source: (Daft & Lane 2008, p.363)

Below we will provide a brief introduction of the five types of power in the organizational environment. Legitimate power, often referred as authority, is a form of power that derives from an individual’s official power (Kowalski & Kowalski 2010, p.57). For example, a principal’s legitimate power is given by the school board through superintendent. Reward power and Coercive power are two contrasting powers as one refers to the power to provide positive outcomes to others while the other refers to the power to exert punishment to the subordinates. These two kinds of power often work as supplements to the legitimate power to make it more effective. Expert power suggests that leaders may influence the subordinates using their expertise or special information in term of teaching of special knowledge for example. And last but not least, referent power results from the leader charisma or fame that command followers’ identification, respect, and admiration in order to make them follow and believe the leaders.


2.1.2            Case analysis: John Terrill’s primary source of power


Legitimate and referent are the two major source of power that have been expressed well in the case while the evidence of the other three types of power source are still unknown in this case. Firstly, in term of legitimate power source which we can tell from the fact that John Terrill was brought in to manage DGL International’s Technical Services division and so he was nominated as the departmental head of the Technical Services department. With the legitimate power which is well defined to a large degree by the company’s formal policies and procedures in term of job description of the manager’s position, John Terrill managed to do a serious of actions that he had done in this event: he summoned a meeting participated by all the engineers to ask them what they concerned and what caused the low productivity in the department; He also called for the day’s reports and issued an order effective immediately that the reports be turned in daily to his office rather than mailed to the headquarters in order to carry out his plan; and what’s more he also stored up the reports and use them to negotiate with the president. These also show that John Terrill was using his legitimate power to help investigate and resolve the problem. In term of the referent power, we can see the evidence of this type of source of power in the below facts: He stood at the side of the employees and showed great concern for their personal welfare and asked them directly about “What’s the problem? Why can’t we produce…” and after listening to the complaints, he soon used his legitimate power to act with determination and his actions also showed his charismatic characteristic.


Effectiveness of the legitimate and referent power


As mentioned above, according to the definition of power in the business environment which could be referred as the potential ability of one person (or department) to influence other people (or department) to carry out orders or to do something they would not otherwise have done (Daft 2008, p.497) the effectiveness of the power could be measured by the how the leader’s order and desired results been carried out by relative parties. As in this case, the relative parties include the engineers in the Technical Service division and the top management of the DGL International and the desired results was to persuade the management to simplify the report making system so that it could increase the productivity of technical department. Though the case in the end has not mentioned the result of John Terrill’s “showdown” action and whether the management had accepted the change proposed by John Terrill to use a monthly report instead of the form of a daily reporting system, but we can predict that there is a great chance for the management to accept this suggestion because it will increase the productivity of the technical department which was desired by the management and what’s more such change was under strong support by the engineers.




3.        Identify two of the ten managerial roles under Henry Mintzberg’s research that John Terrill performed in carrying out his duty.


3.1    Theoretical review of Henry Mintzberg (1975)’s ten managerial roles


A role is a set of observable behaviors belonging to an identifiable position (Barker 1992, p.54). Henry Mintzberg (1975) through the systematically studying the activities of five chief executives in a variety of organizations (Koontz & Weihrich 2008, p.16) which focused on the content and purposes of managers’ work and with the help of the study results and other similar researches he proposed the model of ten managerial roles which basically covers everything that a manager would do: Figurehead, Leader, Liaison, Monitor, Disseminator, Spokesperson, Entrepreneur, Disturbance handler, Resource allocator and Negotiator. His studies also classified these ten major roles into three major categories as illustrated in the table below: Interpersonal managerial roles, Informational managerial roles and Decisional managerial roles.



Table 1 Ten managerial roles by Henry Mintzberg

Source: (Griffin 2008, p.13)


3.1.1            Interpersonal managerial roles


The interpersonal roles which include the roles of Figurehead, Leader and Liaison are part of the formal authority of the manager within the firms and they involve the interpersonal relationships with individual employees and other parties such as the upper management or other stakeholders which the managers need to deal with. According to Barker (1992, p.55), usually a manager is the central person within the communications that occur in the organizational unit so that he or she need to perform the interpersonal managerial roles. Now we will have a brief introduction about these detailed interpersonal managerial roles. Firstly, a manager would play the figurehead role when he or she needs to join the ceremonial, social and other pubic activities as the representative of the organization. The figurehead role is playing an important role especially with the fast development of the social media in nowadays and what the manager say in any public occasions could be known by others in a very short period of time. Secondly, the leader role is limited to a rather narrow sense of the “leading role” which refers to the hiring, training and motivating the employees. And in order perform a leader role the manager need to formally or informally show the employees how to do things right. And the last role of the three interpersonal managerial roles is liaison role by acting which a manager needs to coordinate two or more different individuals, groups or organizations. The liaison role is an important role when interactions are frequent among different departments, interest groups and partner organizations.


3.1.2            Informational managerial roles


The three informational managerial roles majorly deal with the creation and dissemination of the information within or outside the organizations. The first informational managerial role, monitor role, is performed by a manager when he or she gathers information with a particular target through the information gathering behaviors which include reading (reports, documents), talking (meeting, interview and various forms of communication) and observing (visiting). The monitor role could be in a daily base to check with the employees’ performance and ensure that everything is going well as expected and it could also be used when a problem happens and the manager need to find out the reasons behind the problem. The disseminator role is in charge of distributing the information to other parties within the organization. The disseminator role is important in the organizations because many kinds of information could not be directly passed to the employees in form of documents for various reasons. For example, a manager may need to tailor or select part of the information to be review to the employees due to the confidentiality of some information, or employee could not understand some information without the manager’s explanations. The third kind of informational roles is spokesperson role by playing which the manager provides information to the people or other users outside the organization.


3.1.3            Decisional managerial roles


The decisional managerial roles include entrepreneur role, disturbance-handler, resource allocator and negotiator role. In the entrepreneur role, managers initiate change by being involved in the development and implementation of the change strategy. The entrepreneur role is important in the fast changing business environment through innovation or improving in the business. And disturbance handler role deals with the threats to the organizations such as a union strike or the breakdown of important machines, and unlike the planned action of the entrepreneur role to take advantage of an opportunity, the disturbance is a reaction to an unexpected event that creates a problem (Lussier & Achua 2010, p.12). And the role of the manager here would be to seek solutions to these various unanticipated problems. In term of resource allocator role, a manager’s job is to choose where the organization will expand its efforts using the right of allocation of the scarce organizational resource and typical activities in this role include developing and monitoring budgets, forecasting future resource needs and handling problems in obtaining them. Last but not least, the role of negotiator will be effective when managers represent their organizational unit during routine and non-routine transaction such as negotiating a deal with the supplier or the labor union.


Though every manager is expected to fulfill all these ten roles in the work place, but the emphasis being placed in these roles and how these roles are carried out by the managers will vary depending on different job nature and organizational environment. Below we will focus on analyzing the managerial roles of John Terrill in the case of DGI international.


3.2    Case analysis: John Terrill’s managerial roles


There are two major roles that John Terrill was acting in dealing with the low productivity in the Technical Service division: Monitor role and Entrepreneur role. The monitor role was not obvious but it is the job the John Terrill had been doing for most of his time during his handling of the case. After he got to know that the employees had very serious and heavy complaints about the report writing system, he called for the day’s reports and issued an order effective immediately that the reports be turned in daily to his office rather than mailed to the headquarters in order to monitor the workload of the engineers to see the impact of the report writing on the engineers performance in their jobs. So he was actually playing the monitoring role to generate the necessary information for him to understand the reasons behind the low productivity of the engineers. The second role that John Terrill was acting in dealing with the low productivity in the Technical Service division is the entrepreneur role rather than a negotiator role. Though we can also see that it seems that John Terrill also argue strongly with the president on behalf of the engineers, but in this case rather than playing a negotiator role John Terrill is playing more the entrepreneur role by suggesting the simplification in the report writing system which is an important innovation in the Technical Service division and also it is because the fact that John Terrill was employed to resolve the issues of low productivity rather than striking for interesting on behalf of the employees and he should stand more in the management’s position rather than the employees’.


4.        Do you think gender makes a difference when it comes to leadership style? Use examples and literature to support your view.


I think gender makes a difference when it comes to leadership style which is supported by abundant studies and researches and also my working experiences.


4.1    Theoretical review of gender difference in field of leadership style


4.1.1            Gender and leadership styles


With more and more women joining the management positions of all kinds of organizations, the topic of similarities and differences of leadership styles based on gender is becoming more and more popular (Brown & Irby 1998, p.45). Studies have emphasized the differences between male leaders and female leaders in term of the various leadership competencies: traits, skills and behaviors (Butler 1990). Helmich (1974) through a survey that covered 550 company presidents and came to the conclusion that men presidents tended to be more task-oriented while the women counterparts were more people oriented. Many other studies have been done in this field with similar conclusions, according to such view there are two distinct leadership styles which are gender-linked. There are also different voices about such clear cut of female and male gender stereotypes in the field of leadership style selection; for example, Hollander (1978) claimed that the two dimensions, consideration-versus-relationship orientation are not logical opposites of each other.


4.1.2            Perception differences in male and female leadership


When various theories have dichotomized leadership styles by male and female, even in the eyes of the subordinates they also perceive such differences though such perceptions may not be totally right and be confirmed by the facts. This corresponds with the finding that only five percent of the top corporate positions and only one percent of the chief executive officers (CEOs) were held by women amongst the United States’ top 500 companies (Catalyst, 2002). Patterson (1975) claimed that female leaders received lower rating of their performance and promotability while they are actually contributing similar efforts in the work. Other studies also find out that female leaders are in a less favorable position and their leadership is accessed with a different cognitive structure. As concluded by Rice, Instone and Adams (1984) that female leaders were considered as having less capacity for increased responsibility and less ability to initiate changes than the male counterparts. But on the other hand in the positive side, most of these studies while suggesting that there is bias in the perception of the female leadership, they also find out that female leaders are found to be have better interpersonal skills in term of being sensitive to the needs of others, being warm and friendly and getting people to work together and having social skills and tact (Shepard 1997). So we can see that people including the subordinates will have stereotype of female which could be depicted as gentle, vulnerability and relationship oriented and this stereotype has been linked to the female leadership style as in the evaluation of female leadership.


4.2    Case analysis: John Terrill and personal experience


As in the case of John Terrill, we can see that he is very creative and eying for the resolve of the issue, though he did think in the shoes of the employees and tried to help the engineers to simplify the report writing system but still he is a task oriented leadership. Firstly, after knowing the possible reasons of the low productivity, he ordered to send all the documents to his office and he focused on creating a showdown rather than caring the work and life of the employees; secondly, when the showdown occurred, John Terrill did bring the effect of surprise to the president and the other employees but he did not think from the perspective of the president because the such showdown could be very embarrassing to the president. So we can see that John Terrill is more closed to a task oriented leadership style.


On the other hand according to my personal working experience, female leaders tend to be more considerate and they would be less likely to scold people face to face which are embarrassing to many people. There might not be such a clear cut in male leadership style and female leadership style and what’s more there are too many exceptions in which some female leaders could be more target tracing, but such gender differences in leadership style are still obvious which could get confirmation in our working experience.


5.        Recommendations on John Terrill’s leadership style from the perspective of the president of the DGI International


5.1    Modifications in John Terrill’s leadership style


5.1.1            To be more considerate to others


Firstly, I would recommend John Terrill that he needs to be more considerate about what other people feel when he is actually happy with his behaviors because making someone else embarrassing should not be part of his leadership style. This problem is quite obvious when he made his showdown in the president office as just now discussed. Everyone needs to be respected including the president and the senior executive, and John Terrill could have communicate his findings in a more flexible way and he did not necessarily express his idea in such a direct and a little bit “extreme” way that having others embarrassed.


5.1.2            Increase the function and effectiveness of the “leader role”


Secondly, John Terrill needs to increase its managerial roles of the “leader role” to guide the engineers to be more productive which would requires him to learn more professional knowledge in the technical field. So far as we can see from the case, John Terrill was using a Laissez-faire or free rein style and left alone the engineers to work on their own. But according to the ten managerial roles under Henry Mintzberg’s research, every manager needs to play these ten managerial roles though with emphasis, and as the head of the technical service division, John Terrill could not simply “stand off the way of the engineers” work but he needs to have his leadership in the guidance of the work in term of production procedure improvement to increase the performance of the employees.


5.1.3            To encourage the maturity of the engineers


Thirdly, as concluded earlier that by providing supportive behavior to the subordinates, John Terrill is acting the leadership style of participating/supporting leaders, and actually he can encourage the employees to speak out their demand if the similar cases happen so that employee maturity could be upgrade to the next level M4 and John Terrill could change the leadership styles from participating/supporting leaders to S4 (Delegating). But such recommendation is based on the assumption that the employee maturity could be further developed and they could have high commitment to the work and this also would require John Terrill to change his leadership styles and behaviors so that it could fit in the changing situations more easily.




5.2    Possibility of the change of leadership style for John Terrill


It is John Terrill’s responsibility to listen to the advice of the president as it is the request form the top management for him to change his leadership styles. But while under pressure to change, it is not an easy job for John Terrill to manage such change and achieve the desired results in a short period of time. Firstly, some leadership traits may not be changed. According to the trait approach to leadership which holds that some leadership traits are born with the leaders, and it was believed that through this approach critical leadership traits could be isolated and that people with such traits could then be recruited, selected, and installed into leadership positions (Heijden, Bono, Remmé & Jones 2008, p.22). There is an old Chinese goes like this, “it’s easier to change the mountain and the society rather than changing someone’s natural character. So that our experience also tells us that it could be very difficult for John Terrill to change some personal characteristics which are part of his leadership style. Secondly, changing the leadership styles may cause leadership ineffectiveness. Because John Terrill is good at using his current leadership style to manage the department, there is chance that such leadership effectiveness could not be maintained when he change his leadership style. For example, we can see from a lot of cases that some CEOs had been very good at making turnaround for companies that are in serious crisis but they were later found to be not performing their job well when the companies are back to the normal track because they had been working well with the leadership style that proved to be working well in situation of crisis but not in a normal situation. So that the same thing could happen to John Terrill as well because when the department has stabilized down, he needs to change his leadership style to fit in to routine job of a technical service division head.



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