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Practical Case Studies in Management and Leadership


This article is the first in a two part series. Watch for the second installment next week.

Mordu Serry-Kamal

Public management textbooks are replete with diverse
concepts that are oriented toward addressing human productivity and
behavior in organizations, as perhaps most of such organizations strive
to improve the quality and quantity of service delivery within the
public, private, and nonprofit sectors of an economy. Among these
varied concepts are management and leadership. These two concepts are
significant within this exercise because of the role, which they perform
in ensuring that all the factors of production, in any entrepreneurial
effort, are mobilized effectively so that goods and services are
delivered according to the goal established by the relevant
organization, and the expectations of shareholders as recipients of
those goods and services.

These two terms, sometimes articulated as synonyms, are in
actuality not only different conceptually but they are also mutually
exclusive. Their mutual exclusivity is established on the fact that,
viewed from a productivity perspective, the two are largely dependent on
each other. For example, in order to advance organizational
productivity, leadership skills will be needed to enhance the bastion of
management skills, assuming that such skills do exist in any given
case. Further, in order to comprehend the distinguishing features
pertaining to management and leadership, reference should be made to
John Kotter’s tabular comparison of these concepts in the form of
models. Therefore, according to John P. Kotter, in a 2001 Classics of
Organizational Behavior article entitled “Management and Leadership”,
the models make it clear that management and leadership attempt to
achieve certain factors somewhat differently. These factors are: one,
the establishment of an agenda or the objectives consisting of the goal
of the organization; two, the development of human resources designed to
achieve the agenda or plan; three, the implementation or execution of
the agenda; and four, the monitoring of the results or outcomes that are
expected.

According to Paul Hersey and others, in a 2008 Management
of Organizational Behavior textbook, management is defined as “… the
process of working with and through individuals and groups and other
resources such as equipment, capital, and technology, to accomplish
organizational goals”. The same authors also define leadership as that
which occurs “… whenever one person attempts to influence the behavior
of an individual or group, regardless of the reason”. This definition
implies that leadership is not necessarily relegated to being just a
top-to-bottom phenomenon within a hierarchy, but that it may also imply a
bottoms-up phenomenon for as long as the environment exists whereby the
manifestation of the latter may transpire. Therefore, from the
standpoint of the manager, leadership skills are needed to gain the
“voluntary compliance” of the organizational personnel, which constitute
the most valuable of all the assets or factors of production within an
organization.

The factors below signify the parallels between management
and leadership, as exemplified in the Kotter principles.

  • As managers plan to
    fulfill organizational goals, leaders develop a vision in an attempt to
    steer the organization in a direction that would achieve the goal
    effectively into the distant future.
  • As managers organize
    and acquire the staff to assist in carrying out the mission of the
    organization, through human resource management, leaders attempt to
    influence stakeholders (all the categories that may gain or lose as a
    result of the organizational effort) through effective communication in
    order to amass support for the leader’s vision of goal attainment.
  • As managers attempt to
    implement or execute organizational goals through monitoring results and
    solving problems, leaders motivate employees to accept and overcome the
    challenges that might become obstacles to the organization’s quest to
    achieve its goal.
  • As managers attempt to
    fulfill the expectations of stakeholders in terms of simple goal
    achievements, leaders place a strong emphasis on organizational change
    which may bring about organizational outcomes that might be competitive
    with other organizations.

Therefore, based on the academic constructs established
above, this brief exercise will attempt to accomplish two objectives.
One, analyze actual private sector cases in public management, through
the application of the concepts of management and leadership as defined
and explained above. Two, evaluate the extent to which the applicable
organizations are reaching their established goals on the basis of
actual or demonstrated performance. Some aspects of the Kotter model may
not necessarily be directly applicable to these case studies.

Case One: The Car Wash Company

The first time this writer visited this particular car
wash company it was not exactly clear as to what to expect as regards
the quality of services that were being rendered by that company. The reason for such anxiety was
that other similar establishments had been patronized in the past
whereby the results had been somewhat dismal and disappointing, in terms
of expected performance. In addition, this initial feeling was
prevalent despite the fact that there were the usual “superficial”
business attractions which, by conceptual definition, appear to be
displayed primarily for the purpose of attracting customers. Some of
these attractions included:

  • A legibly written
    pro-consumer mission statement indicating that the cars of the customers
    would be washed to their utmost satisfaction – the stated goal of the
    organization.
  • A service fee which
    appeared to be low as compared to other car washes – competitiveness.
  • A cadre of personnel
    who were standing “appearing ready to get to work”- a team of motivated
    workers.
  • However, as a customer
    or a stakeholder, the author’s interests were centered only on
    performance or results pertaining to the services to be rendered. As a
    result, a primary concern was whether the services to be rendered will
    be commensurate with the charges that will be incurred. Additionally,
    there was also a concern as to whether this writer will receive the
    professional courtesy that would be due a customer, who was willing to
    patronize that organization by paying for the services which were
    purported to be rendered.

The first visit passed without incident. In other words,
the writer was completely satisfied with the quality of service,
personnel courtesy, and the charges that had been incurred for the
package of services rendered. However, because of prior experiences,
this writer felt that he may have been lucky on that particular day; and
that, he would return at another time only to discover that the
professional events of the first visit may no longer be manifested.
Fortunately, exactly the same situations kept repeating themselves in
every subsequent visit, to the extent that this writer became a fixture
or a repeat customer in that organization. Later, the interaction
between this customer and the personnel became rather lax and jovial to
include matters having absolutely nothing to do with washing cars:
sports, education, politics, and even society’s social problems. At this
time it became very clear that this writer may have eventually found a
place in which to have his car washed, when he could not do so himself.

A number of reasons can be cited pertaining to the
generation of this amicable climate between the customer and the
business enterprise. One, a business relationship that was based on
service delivery, mutual trust, and respect had been engendered and was
being nurtured. Two, the enterprise appeared to know that consistency in
productivity and business courtesy would be needed in order to maintain
the relationship. Therefore, assessed from these perspectives, the
customer concluded that there was certainly leadership in addition to
management in this car wash company. The evidence, to support this
claim, will be provided in the analyses next week.

Mordu Serry-Kamal is an associate professor of public
administration and political science at Winston-Salem State University,
Winston-Salem, NC. Email: [email protected]

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