Student paper: Case study of John Terrill’s leadership style

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

) Participating leadership

According to the leadership theory from Hersey and Blanchard (Daft 2010) and the situation in the case, we can define that the leadership style of John Terrill was participating, which is based on the analysis of the followers’ readiness level and John Terrill’s leadership behavior in DGL International.

For the one thing, Hersey and Blanchard indicated that the followers’ readiness level of R3 is that they are able to earn excellent performances in their jobs due to the fact that they own necessary skills and working experience but they may feel insecurity in their abilities or lack high willingness. Based on this definition, we can pointed out the readiness level of John Terrill’s followers, namely, these engineers in the Technical Services division belonged to R3. At first, the ability of engineers under the charge of John Terrill was relatively high just as the case mentioned that these engineers are best educated with the highest payment. It indicated that these engineers own proper job required skills and rich experience as well as professional knowledge, which reflect the relatively high job readiness of these people. Secondly, the wiliness of these engineers involved in this case may be relatively low. As one engineers said “I was hired as an engineer, not a pencil pusher”, which disclosed the dissatisfaction from these engineers on report writing and job structure. Furthermore, it also reflected the unwillingness of these people in making any breakthrough in their job performance that why the productivity of this division was so low. From the two aspects, we can conclude the readiness level of John Terrill’s subordinate was R3- able but unwilling to perform their job well. And the best suitable leadership style for this kind of followers’ readiness level may be the participating one as Hersey and Blanchard advocated. (Daft 2010)

For the other, the leadership behavior of John Terrill emphasized more on the relationship building with his subordinates while less focused on the task structure forming based on the analysis of the case’s information. First and foremost, John Terrill showed high concern for his subordinates due to the current situation of these engineers’ working performance. John Terrill had involved himself actively in the two way communication with his subordinated engineers in which he showed great concern for the personal welfare of these people. For example, John Terrill offered these people many chances to show their ideas on why the productivity of the Technical Services division was in such low level. And then, in order to encourage and motivate the working passion and morale of these people, he carried out a series of actions such as arousing the attention of the top management in DGL International to the truth of why the productivity of his department. With these activities, he may win the support of the engineers in the Technical Services division and build a relatively good relationship with them. Secondly, John Terrill may have a low frequency level of task behaviors as the leader of the Technical Service division. He spend much time on improving the welfare of his subordinates as the above mentioned rather than spelling out the duties as well as responsibilities of these engineers have to bear including what to do, when to do, how to do, etc. ( Daft 2010; Yukl et al. 2002 )

Generally speaking, on the basis of the above discussion, we can conclude the leadership style of John Terrill was participating which was not only fit for the readiness level of his subordinates but also owned the characteristics of high relationship behaviors and low task behaviors.

) Strengths and weaknesses

Just as the coin has two sides, the participating leadership style adopted by John Terrill had strong sides and weak sides as the following discussed. In the strong aspect of this kind of leadership style, we can get three major strengths as below.

In the first place, because of the participating style used by John Terrill is built on the basis of a high concern for working people and relationship building, it is able to enhance the engineers’ involvement and activity in decision making. For example, the meeting conducted by John Terrill was aimed at figure out the factors resulting in the current issue-low productivity in the Technical Services division so as to make a decision to find out means to alleviate or solve this problem. The two party meeting joined by John Terrill and his subordinates was a suitable means to encourage the participation and idea sharing of these engineers. Because many engineers gave their views and ideas or complaints on their jobs and related issues, it would offer Terrill more useful and exactly information to form the approach to solve the urgent situation. With the consequence in improving the participation of engineers in decision making and idea sharing, one of the strengths of the participating style may become obvious that it can strengthen the correction and completion of the decision making. (Chitayat & Venezia 2005)

Another strong point of participating leadership of John Terrill is the effectiveness of communication. The two party meetings, for example, can be defined as a face to face communication between the manager- John Terrill and the subordinates- engineers. It offered both John Terrill and engineers the chance to express their idea freely without being filtered and distorted which may help the top management and Terrill gain more flexibility and initiative in problem solving (Yukl et al. 2002).

Besides these strengths, Terrill’s participating leadership style also owned two weak points.

The first weakness was the little concern for task structure or production enhancement. Although the efforts John Terrill made to build the relationship and fight for the welfare of his subordinates were worth praising, the weakness in task structure building and clarification may lead to low productivity as well. Even though most of these engineers were well educated and experienced, nobody can assert all of them understand their job content and task structure well enough and there was no need to give them further clarification and guidance, which may also arouse several mistakes or pitfalls in assignment fulfillment such as misunderstanding of task goals, time consuming in clarification and other task related problems. (Yukl et al. 2002)

The second weakness was due to the high standard for the level of personal involvement in the decision making process. If these engineers’ involved in the meeting mentioned in this case were really capable and advisable, the time spending in building relationship with them was worthwhile. If not, most of the efforts made by John Terrill in building relationship with them may be useless. Under such circumstance, the impact from participating leadership style of John Terrill may become relatively weak and small. (Chitayat & Venezia 2005; Yukl et al. 2002)

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

) Primary source of power- legitimate power

As Gitman and McDaniel (2009) claimed leadership as one of the key management function refers to the process of guiding and motivating working individuals to achieve the organizational goals. It is the responsibility of managers to effectively influence and direct employees’ behaviors. Such kind of influence is called power which owns five major primary sources such as legitimate power, reward power, coercive power, expert power and referent power. Based on the information from the case, we can consider the primary source of John Terrill in this case as legitimate power.

First of all, the legitimate power owned by John Terrill refers to the power from the formal position of the management as well as its granted authority in an organization Daft 2010). On the one hand, once John Terrill was selected as the chief person in charge of DGL International’s Technical Services division, it suggested that John Terrill had the power or authority to make things happen in the Technical Services division including assigning tasks, deciding who plays and other assignment for his subordinates. On the other hand, John Terrill was able to exert influence on the engineers in Technical Service Division through requests or demands by the authority granted from his position. Such kind of position power became the primary source of power for John Terrill to deal with the problem of engineers in his department. (Brown& Heywood 2005, p. 659-679)

In addition, it was the legitimate power enabled John Terrill to hold the meeting with engineers in his department. Without such power or position, nobody may attend that meeting and show their ideas. One of the determinants that engineers would like to attend that meeting was that they accept and realize the legitimate power of John Terrill which may give them no choice but to comply with such kind of power. In another word, the attendance of engineers in the meeting may largely because John Terrill’s legitimate power which was the absolute power and position can’t be denied. (Brown& Heywood 2005, p. 659-679)

And then, it was the legitimate power that endowed John Terrill the authority and role to deal with the problems in Technical Services division. Because of this power, John Terrill won the trust from engineers that he was able to change the current situation for then once Terrill expressed that he would like to strive the welfare for the engineers. Let have a look at one example reflecting the primary source of power for Terrill. After the meeting with engineers, John Terrill ordered the engineers’ reports to be turned in daily in his office instead of mailed to headquarters and such kind of order was practiced immediately without any doubts by people, which disclosed the authority and position of John Terrill due to his legitimate power. And meanwhile, the legitimate power also made John Terrill owned the authority to have a talk with top management of DGL International. (Gitman & McDaniel 2009)

By and large, the legitimate power enabled John Terrill to deal with problems in the Technical Services division more flexibly and effectively, which was his primary source of power.

) The effectiveness of legitimate power

On the information obtaining from the case, the legitimate power used by John Terrill was relatively effective and judiciously, because he used this power to help people in his division and was aimed to solve problems in order to strive for the welfare of his subordinates.

To mention first, John Terrill used the legitimate power appropriately and effectively that he called for a face to face meeting with engineers under the announcement that he would try his best to help him gain more benefits. His position namely his legitimate power made his words trustworthy and led these engineers to express their opinions and complaints in the meeting without hesitate. One of the effective points for John Terrill’s legitimate power was that he enabled his subordinates to say out their complaints freely under the trust in him. (Connell & Nolan 2004, p.43-63)

What’s more, John Terrill was also effectively and efficiently used his legitimate power. For example, the immediate and wise decision that collecting the engineers’ reports for one month’s time in his office to use them as the evidence of inappropriate work load was successful which was sue to his legitimate power. This kind of power made him own the authority to do nearly every action since these actions were helpful in dealing with the low productivity of Technical Service division. (Connell & Nolan 2004, p.43-63)

The last point which reflected the effectiveness of John Terrill’s legitimate power was the practice that he gave feedback to DGL International’s top management about the reason leading to the low productivity of engineers in Technical Services division. Just as the case mentioned, when the secretary from finance department asking for the report from John Terrill, he smartly used his legitimate power to suggest the secretary meeting him in the president office which offered him another advantage to well and reasonably point out the factor for engineers’ shortage of productivity in the Technical Services division. This advantage was that only one secretary asked for the reports for the whole month long which was more pervasive for John Terrill to suggest that the reports required from engineers should be shorten so as to more productively use their working time. (Connell & Nolan 2004, p.43-63)

The three points in above can help us to make the conclusion that the legitimate power rooting from John Terrill’s position in DGL International was effective used. Besides, under the assistance of such kind of power, the real problem contributing to the low productivity of the Technical Service division may attract the great attention of DGL International’ top management and the future of this division would be more promising under the lead of John Terrill.

  1. Henry Mintzberg’s research indicates that diverse manager activities can be organized into ten roles. Identify two of these roles that John Terrill performed in carrying out his duty.

) Negotiator

As Henry Mintzberg mentioned (cited in Bloom 2009; Daft 2010), the management role of negotiator indicates the manages’ role in representing department during the negotiation period of union contracts, sales, purchasing, budgets as well as its importance position of representing the interests of the department. In the Technical Service division of DGL International Company, John Terrill played the role of a negotiator during the dealing with the issue of low productivity of the Technical services division.

John Terrill was a qualified negotiator which involved the negotiation practices with both parties such as his subordinates and his boss. In the aspect of negotiating with his subordinates, he was patient and skillful in emotion driving and encouragement. For example, to realize his goal of getting the real reason for the low productivity of Technical Services division, he started his investigation from the engineers by claiming his role as their comrade to fight with them for their welfare. With this means, he succeeded in leading engineers to give their true feelings and reasons for low productivity. And then, John Terrill claimed his position of clearing up the barriers for engineers so that they can do their job effectively and properly in order to gain the trust and support from engineers, which was so helpful for Terrill to develop a further negotiation with these engineers to solve problems. In short, in the negotiation process with engineer in the division of Technical Services, John Terrill had a good performance as a negotiator.

Meanwhile, in the aspect of negotiation with DGL International’s top management, John Terrill performed outstanding as well. Let’s take some evidences as the example to prove the effectiveness that John Terrill played as the negotiator. At first, to negotiate with the top management on the issue of low productivity more effectively and correctly, John Terrill did several preparatory jobs. For example, John Terrill was so smart and experienced that he purposely collected the writing reports from engineers for one month. And then after one month later, he used a cart to carry these reports collected for one month time to the president office of DGL International in the front of engineers in his division just as the case described that Terrill walked through the department pushing the cart loaded with the enormous stack of reports. The two scenarios disclosed the fact that John Terrill had tried his best to prepare himself well enough in order to better stand the interests of his department’s engineers when he developed the negotiation with DGL International’s top management team. Moreover, he was so skillful and performed well in upward negotiation. The evidences he used such as the large number of reports from engineers and the vocabulary he adopted such as ‘I suggest’, ‘ a more productive manner’, ‘ brief report’ and so on all showed his caution and excellence in making his suggestion and opinion more acceptable via proper talking skills and manners. (Bloom 2009)

Just as Daft (2010) said it was important for negotiator to make a choice and take actions practically and effectively so as to attain expected outcomes and consequences via the proper negotiation with these necessary parties. Based on the above evidences and relative theories, we can make the conclusion that John Terrill was a relatively outstanding negotiator including his proper motivation and inducement in leading his subordinates offering the expected information for him as well as his wisdom in negation with his boss.

) Disturbance handler

Henry Mintzberg (cited in Spillane et al. 2004; Daft 2010) defined that disturbance handler role for the manager in an organization is responsible to solve the disputes and conflicts, meet crises and challenges in order to assist the organization or subordinates to perform better. For John Terrill, he also played the role of disturbance handler in the case.

In order to find out reasons and solve the problem of low productivity of engineers in Technical Services division of his department, John Terrill almost worked like a fire fighter to trace out the blasting fuse and then devoted all of his efforts to put it out. For instance, to find out the reason leading to low productivity and poor achievement of engineers in his division, John Terrill held a meeting to attract every engineer’s attention to the issue of low productivity. To calm down their mind and create a harmonious atmosphere of communication, John Terrill performed a nice beginning by expressing his friendly attitude that he emphasized his role as the problem handler to help engineers gain what they deserve in the work. All of his behaviors did help him win the favorable impression from engineers in his division so that they can give their complaints and reasons for low productivity naturally and frankly to Terrill.

Besides that, John Terrill also performed actively to work out reasonable and practical approaches to support solving the problem. The report collecting activity, for instance, reflected John Terrill’s good performance in problems solving, because he was so considerate and far sighted to ask for engineers’ reports handed into his office which was used as the most direct evidence for Terrill to negotiate the solution with top management toward the problem of low productivity of his subordinates.

Once more, John Terrill was also good at pacify others’ mood by proper activities by proper words and actions. Besides the announcement of his main concern in his role at the beginning of the meeting in the case, John Terrill had also strengthened his achievement in calming down the emotion of his subordinates by re-emphasizing his purpose and responsibility in his position which was so helpful that once he walked into the office of DGL International’s president, all the engineers in his department cheered up.

The above discussion all showed John Terrill’s role as disturbance handler to help his subordinates’ solving their problems.

At the same time, John Terrill also played the role as disturbance handler for his organization. For example, the efforts he made to help engineers to gain their profit was also worked as the efforts he made to assist his organization to remove disputes and conflicts from employees, whose final aim was to facilitate DGL International achieve better performance and gain more profit.

Generally speaking, all the activities John Terrill practiced all indicated his role of disturbance handler in solve low productivity problem of the Technical Service division.

  1. Do you think gender makes a difference when it comes to leadership style? Use example(s) and literature to support your stand.

) Leadership styles due to gender difference

Brenner et al. (2006) held the idea that men have different leadership styles from women. And the leadership style of men is often consider to be the tendency of assertive, controlling, and confident and when referring to employment issue, it often owns these activities including assertively speaking, competing to gain attention, influencing others, task oriented behaviors and so on (Kent el al. 2010). For women, they are described with a primary concern on people’s welfare with more helpful, sympathetic and affectionate leadership behaviors. With reference to employment settings, female leaders are more intended to speak tentatively, support and soothe people, contribute to the solution in dealing with rational or interpersonal problems (Kent el al. 2010).

The influence of gender on leadership styles can be discussed in two aspects. At first, Bass (1990 cited in Kent el al. 2010) said most male leaders have the task oriented style, which is labeled the structure of initiation including activities such as giving encouragement for employees to follow organizational principles and procedures, making efforts to maintain a high performance and clarifying the leader and subordinate roles. For example, when Wijers was nominated as the CEO of Akzo, he immediately clarified his position as the leader of Akzo and gave a crystal clear clarification on the jobs and responsibilities to his subordinates to help his organization regain its reputation and profit more. And he also made several changes to ensure the well performance of Akzo in the future such as costs reducing, management replacement, developing new products as well as modification in pension scheme. All of his behaviors and practices all show the task oriented style of a male leader. (Bloom 2009)

Bass (1990 cited in Kent el al. 2010) also defined the leadership style for women as interpersonally oriented style, which was labeled with consideration including behaviors such as helping and assisting subordinates, showing a certain amount of concern with their welfare and being friendly and available in the working process explanation. Jiang Peizheng is a typical example of such kind of leadership style. As a Chinese entrepreneur, she always keeps the interest of the company-Goldenthroat Group in mind and meanwhile she also shows great concern for her subordinates. For example, she is always keen on enhancing the working and living standard for workers including offering free breakfasts, solving the housing problems, modifying the pension scheme, ensuring the high quality medical insurance, providing interesting entertainment activities programs such as truism and other related issues. All of the feminine leadership style has enabled Jiang Peizheng to attract a lot of outstanding followers, which finally contributed the great success of that company that the Golden-throat Group has ranked in the top 50 patent medicine manufacturer in China (Bloom 2009).

According to the discussion in the above, we can see that the gender do make a difference in organizational leadership style which often results in the task oriented leadership style of male leaders and the interpersonally oriented style of female leaders with different leadership behaviors.

) No direct relationship between gender and leadership style

Besides the idea that gender makes a difference in leadership style, other people believe that there is direct relation between the gender and leadership style in today’s organizations. To support this idea, other factors instead of gender difference are given by people to emphasize their important influence on leadership sty forming, which includes these factors such as culture, education, working experience, personality, and environment and so on.

To begin with, let take a look at the influences of different culture on leadership styles. According to the studies towards managers and leaders in eight European countries, a conclusion is made that culture has a big influence on leadership style but not the gender. Leaders in Swedish whether they are male or female adopt a relatively unique style compared with other countries’ leaders. They are labeled with the most innovative character which makes them flexible in meeting fast changing environments. In comparison, leaders or managers in Denmark have the style of less team oriented which is strategic, analytical and demanding like style. And the German managers not only the female or male are technically oriented in their leadership style with a preference of setting direction for the future. In addition, French male or female managers and leaders are often supported with a highly educated background that make the leadership style be outgoing with a good amount of energy, passion, intensity as well as emotional expressions. All these different leadership styles are mainly due to the culture in different countries that formed the leadership styles for managers and leaders in originations of these countries instead of the gender difference. (Lok & Crawford 2004)

And meanwhile, according to the leadership trait theory that great leader are born not made. It supports the idea that people are born with the certain kinds of personality and qualities. Bill Gates, for example, he inherited intelligence ambition and a competitive spirit from his farther. Driving by his competitive nature, Bill Gates made the decision to be the first person to develop a kind of language in order to make the personal computer accessible for all the social members. His personal traits such as hardworking, ambitious, intelligent, competent, forward-looking contribute a lot to his charisma leadership style, which has attracted a large number of talents follow him to build up the world most successful business kingdom- the Microsoft. From this example of Bill Gates, it shows that it is the born traits such as personality and other born qualities lead to a certain leadership style not the gender. (Hughes 2006)

To sum up, there may be not too much relationship between the gender and leadership style and it’s these factors such as environment, culture, and personality and so on that has great influence on the leadership style forming.

  1. If you were the president of DGI International, would you recommend modifications of John Terrill’s leadership style that you would like him to adopt? Do you think it will possible for John Terrill to make the necessary changes? Why?

) Recommendations

On the basis of the case information and what we discuss in the above questions, it is easy for us to see that the leadership style of John Terrill belonged to the participating style which focused more on the relationship with followers and showed less care for the task behaviors. As the discussion in question one already offered us the strengths and weaknesses of the participating style, it enables us to make a comparative pertinent conclusion that the present participating leadership style of John Terrill was suitable for the current situation of his followers-engineers whose readiness level was R3 with high job capability but low wiliness of doing things (Daft 2010).

First of all we have to affirm the good aspects of this participating leadership style which was helpful in relationship building and supportable in finding out the reasons to the low productivity problem as well as thinking up a practical solution as John Terrill mentioned to reduce the amount of report writing. We should also take care of its weakness in task structure building and other aspects needs touching up.

In the first place, as the president of DGL International it is essential to stand in the height of the whole organization. From this point, John Terrill may be advised to touch up his leadership style or concern on the task structure building. It is necessary for him to conduct more task behaviors such as a thorough communication among his subordinates involving more statement and discussion on their shortage and weakness in job or task fulfillment such as how they can enhance their productivity via efforts from their sides rather than the company sides. In addition, as the brand new leader, a clearly task content explanation or the statement of task assignments for these engineers are also important for John Terrill to run his department comfortably and conveniently to avoid the misunderstanding of employees from the requirements from their precious boss. (Lok & Crawford 2004; Spillane et al. 2004)

In the next place, an adequate culture building and injection in the Technical Service division is also recommended for John Terrill to enrich his leadership content from the president’ side. We define the culture in organization as a set of beliefs, values and norms shared by people in organizations. For the Technical Services division such kind of culture building may not only benefit this department or even the entire DGL International a lot at the present but also facilitate the future development of this division and the entire organization in its future. For John Terrill as the new leader of Technical Services division, it is beneficial and meaningful to foster a practical and inspiring culture to control and influence the way the engineers interact with each other and their department or even the entire organization. These guidelines or shared goals and norms injected by culture may largely remove misunderstanding and employees resistance via the largely enhanced sense of belonging. For engineers of John Terrill’s department , this kind of sense of belonging was in a shortage or else the engineers may not say they thought they were employed as the pencil pushers, which indicated that from the bottom of their heart that they regarded them as the outside of the company. (Lok & Crawford 2004)

From the above points of view, we can sum up that John Terrill do need some modifications in his leadership to increase his task behaviors as well as contribute more to the culture building to assist his subordinate to gain a better and satisfying performance.

) Possibility for changes making

When comes to the possibility of making changes in leadership, we may get two totally different viewpoints. One is for it and the other is opposed to it.


To support their viewpoint that it is possible for leaders to make some changes in their leadership styles. The main supporting point is that there are various changes in every corner of the business world due to customers’ harsh requirements, more diverse workforce, much bigger market places, globalization and other inevitable issues. Under the influences of those changes, leaders in many organizations have built the relatively high readiness of making changes in their leadership both in their mind as well as knowledge so that they can act more flexible and capable to lead their organizations to meet these changes and profit more in the worldwide market. To sum up, change is not only a fashion but also an unavoidable trend for organizational leaders to justify their leadership and of course this kind of change is possible. (Palmer et al. 2009; Chitayat & Venezia 2005)

For instance, from 1997 to 2001, the ex-leader of a services center in America’s Baltimore had done a poor performance in organizational structure re-oriented. To rejuvenate the organization, a new executive director was hired, which inferred that the current leadership was changed to another style by the new director who was very task oriented and good at reaffirming organizational staff base and clarifying staff roles as well as new strategic direction building. With this change of leadership style in this organization, the operating platform was strengthened and improved, which proved a satisfactory outcome. (Chitayat & Venezia 2005)

In short, changes in the world business environment and the inner part of organizations may have already assisted leaders in many organizations to build their readiness to touch up themselves in both their awareness and leadership style. And for John Terrill who was as the leader of the Technical, it is also possible for him to make necessary changes. At first, his department in DGL International belongs to the technical section which has to meet the technical changes. To lead his subordinate to act more flexible and confident to meet these changes, it requires John Terrill to make some changes first as the boss of this division, which indicates the possibility of John Terrill to make changes. And then, the successful example of leadership style changes such as the changes occurred in services center in the above case told us that it is possible to make some necessary changes in leadership and those changes can contribute to successful outcomes, which also indicate the possibility and feasibility of John Terrill to make necessary changes in his leadership. (Palmer et al. 2009; Chitayat & Venezia 2005)

Beyond the supporting ideas, some people also think that it is impossible to make changes in leadership or the possibility of leadership change is at a low level. When referring to changes, many people show a reluctant attitude towards changes due to the fear for the unpredictable future (Palmer et al. 2009).

And in the Technical Services division of DGL International, we have the reason to believe that engineers may resist some changes in Terrill’s leadership especially when they already accepted the relationship oriented behaviors of John Terrill who showed a great concern for their welfare. Since the initial activities and practices implemented by John Terrill indicated an inclination of more concern on the interest of the engineers, engineers in the Technical Services department may have the doubt and fear for any changes in Terrill which may have the possibility of threatening their interest in the future. This point may lower the possibility of John Terrill to make some changes. (Chitayat & Venezia 2005)

Meanwhile, besides the possibility of employees’ resistance, from John Terrill’s aspect, the possibility of making changes too fast may also be at a low level. As a new leader, the primary task for John Terrill was to stabilize the morale of its staff and strengthen the relationship rather than make changes in the leadership style immediately which may easily arouse some unease or even panic of his subordinates and even result in the employees’ confidence losing and relationship broken with John Terrill. Due to this reason, it is seemed there is little possibility for John Terrill to do changes in his leadership. (Chitayat & Venezia 2005)

By and large, by the above analysis, the conclusion can be finally got that it is seemed impossible for John Terrill to make changes in leadership style.


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