Contingency theory

 

 

Define “trait,” “behavior,” and “power-influence” approaches. List the unique insights that each approach
provides about effective leadership.
Compare the following theories of leadership and explain why all types of theory are useful or not:
Descriptive theory
Prescriptive theory
Contingency theory
How is a crisis likely to affect managerial activities and behavior? For example, the machinery broke down at
your factory and you have to get the product out within a 24-hour deadline or the contract will be broken and
your customer will go to another company “that can produce.”
Case Study: Acme Manufacturing Company
Steve Arnold is a production manager at Acme Manufacturing Company in New Jersey. When Steve drove into
the parking lot at the plant on Tuesday morning at 8:35, he was already 35 minutes late for work. Steve had
overslept that morning because the night before he had stayed up late to finish the monthly production report
for his department. He parked his car and entered the rear of the plant building. Passing through the shipping
area, Steve spotted his friend George Summers and stopped to ask how work was progressing on the new
addition to George’s house.
Entering the office at 8:55, Steve greeted his secretary, Ruth Sweeney, and asked whether anything urgent
needed his immediate attention. Ruth reminded him of the staff meeting at 9:30 with Steve’s boss — Frank
Jones, the vice president for Production — and the other production managers. Steve thanked Ruth for
reminding him (he had forgotten about the meeting) and continued on to his adjoining inner office to look for
the memo announcing the meeting. He vaguely remembered getting the memo in an email one or two weeks
earlier, but did not take the time to read it or look at the attached materials.
His phone rang, and it was Sue Bradley, the sales vice president, who was inquiring about the status of a rush
order for one of the company’s important clients. Steve promised to look into the matter and get back to her
later in the day with an answer. Steve had delegated the rush order last week to Lucy Adams, one of his
production supervisors, and he had not thought about it since then. Stepping back into the outer office, Steve
asked Ruth if she had seen Lucy today. Ruth reminded him that Lucy was at a training workshop in California.
She would be difficult to reach until the session ended late in the afternoon, because the workshop facilitators
regard cell phone calls and text messages as an unnecessary distraction.
Going back into his office, Steve emailed a message to Lucy asking her to call him as soon as possible. Then,
he resumed his search for the memo about the meeting with his boss and the other production managers. He
finally found it in his large collection of unprocessed emails. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a
proposed change in quality control procedures. By now it was 9:25, and there was no time to read the
proposal. He hurried out to get to the meeting on time. During the meeting, the other production managers
participated in the discussion and made helpful comments or suggestions. Steve was not prepared for the
meeting and did not contribute much except to say that he did not anticipate any problems with the proposed
changes.
The meeting ended at 10:30 and Steve returned to his office, where he found Paul Chen, one of his production
supervisors, waiting for him. Paul wanted to discuss a problem caused in the production schedules by a major
equipment breakdown. Steve called Glenda Brown, his assistant manager, and asked her to join them to help
rearrange the production schedules for the next few days. Glenda came in shortly and the three of them
worked on the production schedules. At 11:25, Ruth came in to announce that Mr. Ferris was waiting and he
claimed to have an appointment with Steve at 11:30. Steve looked at his calendar but could not find any entry
for the appointment. Steve asked Ruth to tell Mr. Ferris that he would be ready shortly.
The schedules were completed around 11:40. Since it was nearly noon, Steve invited Mr. Ferris to join him for
lunch at a nearby restaurant. During lunch Steve learned that Mr. Ferris was from one of the firms that provided
materials used in the production process at Acme, and the purpose of the meeting was to inquire about some
changes in material specifications the company had requested. As Mr. Ferris talked, Steve realized that he
would not be able to answer some of the technical questions. When they returned to the plant at 1:15, Steve
introduced Mr. Ferris to an engineer who could answer his questions.
Soon after Steve walked back to his office, his boss (Frank Jones) stopped in to ask about the quality report for
last week. Steve explained that he had given top priority to finishing the monthly production report and would
do the quality report next. Frank was irritated, because he needed the quality data to finalize his proposal for
new procedures, and he thought Steve understood this task was more urgent than the production report. He
told Steve to get the quality data to him as soon as possible and left. Steve immediately called Glenda Brown
and asked her to bring the quality data to his office. The task of reviewing the data and preparing a short
summary was not difficult, but it took longer than he anticipated. It was 2:40 by the time Steve completed the
report and attached it to an e-mail to him.

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