Leadership for Dummies!

I am the type of person that, whilst reading a book, I underline the quotes, statements and passages that I find particularly fascinating and interesting.  As I prepared to write this blog I skimmed through the portion of The Smartest Guys in the Room that I have read to date and glanced at all of the phrases that I had underlined over the past few weeks. I instantly noticed a trend. Everything that was underlined had to do with the PEOPLE. I am intrigued by Lay, Skilling, Kinder and all of the other actors. More specifically, the underlined material is focused on the personalities of these individuals as leaders in their various departments and divisions. They all assume very different and unique leadership styles.

I realize that leadership style is a broad topic so I am curious to hear your input about how I can narrow this interest of mine into a concrete, specific topic. Should I focus on one actor alone? Should I compare and contrast two different leaders in the company? Should I analyze the leadership styles of all of the dominant actors in the book? Perhaps I could write about Lay specifically and his distant leadership style.

Lay’s leadership style was rather passive and quite different than the more aggressive styles practiced by Kinder and Skilling. “Lay was a pushover when it came to negotiating pay and bonuses and could always be held up for more money” (page 85).  Lay tended to avoid conflict, and to delegate tough decisions onto other people. He was also very naive as to the inner-workings of Enron. He was quite removed in the sense that he spend most of time becoming involved with the community and politics. I think it would be interesting to dissect this type of leadership style and discuss how it contributed to Enron’s downfall. I would also like to analyze other cases to see how different leadership styles are successful in different industries and companies. What might have Lay done, if anything,  in regards to leadership to prevent the downfall of Enron?

To further research I entered thelLibrary database and searched for a number of different relevant topics. Within Organizations and Organizing I found references to studies such as one by Rakesh Khurana (2002) called Searching for a Corporate Savior: The Irrational Quest for Charismatic CEOs. Searching for this author in our Bucknell database I came across the original text of this study in addition to another one of her works about management that could also be useful as a potential source. I also used the database to search key words and phrases such as “Business leadership.” I found a book called Drucker on Leadership that seems quite applicable to this topic. I also looked up further works by Selznick since he covers the topic of leadership style in Organizations and Organizing, page 76.

My cited reference search began when I was perusing the Bucknell database for information on power relationships and organizations. I found a book called Managing with Power: Politics and Influence in Organizations by Jeffrey Pfeffer. I looked this book up on Google Scholar to discover that it has been cited by 838 sources. Sifting through these sources I found one that was available on JStor entitled Linking Organizational Context and Managerial Action: The Dimensions of Quality of Management.

The next steps in my research will be contingent upon the finalized, narrow topic I decide upon. If I do choose to research the leadership style of one actor, I might want to look into searching for bibliographies, or other detailed records of that individual’s business career. I also plan to use our textbook more to initiate searches on the Bucknell database. Ultimately, I could use your help to focus my topic better. Perhaps there is even a concept from our textbook that I am not connecting to my thought-process at the moment. Let me know what you think!

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3 Responses

  1. There is so much potential for intriguing analysis here! I would suggest focusing on one individual, such as Lay, to make your paper more focused. It will allow you to deeply analyze his leadership style and what the effect was on others. Consider looking up leadership in a psychology textbook to read a psychology-based viewpoint on it. In my opinion, it helps to understand the overall ramifications of different leadership styles better. Also, check out the Vroom-Yetton-Jago model which deals with leadership styles. Hope these sources help!

  2. Get in the black!

  3. Maybe you should work on “Dummies for Leadership”? Ha ha.

    I have mixed feelings about leadership. It just seems to be so over used in popular discourse and also the management guru world of half-baked ideas and nice stories.

    This is not to say you should not study “leadership.” TO the contrary, bring your keen eye and analytical mind to the question. What is leadership? Is it a personality variable, or does it actually reside in positions of authority, or can it be defined before actions take place?

    I think you told me you have shifted topic anyway. That is fine. But someday you can sink your teeth into leadership.

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