Josh Breitt, Rachel Starr, and Justin Diamond started an advertising agency to serve the needs of small businesses selling in and around their metropolitan area. Breitt contributed clever ideas and a talent for writing scripts and wooing clients. Starr brought a wealth of media contacts, and Diamond handled the artwork. Their quirky ad campaigns soon attracted a stream of projects from car dealers, community banks, and a carpet store. Since the agency’s first year, these clients have kept the bills paid while the three-win contracts from other companies. Breitt, Starr & Diamond (BS&D) prospered by helping clients keep up with the times, and the agency grew to meet the demand, adding a bookkeeper, a graphic artist, a web designer, two salespeople, a social media expert, and a retired human resource manager, who works 10 hours per week.
As the firm grew, the three partners felt they were constantly being pulled away from their areas of expertise to answer questions and solve problems about how to coordinate work, define jobs, and set priorities. They realized that none of them had any management training—and none of them had ever wanted to be a manager. They decided to hire a manager for a position they would call general manager of operations. That person would be responsible for supervising the employees, making sure expenses didn’t go over budget, and planning the resources (including people) needed for further growth.
The partners interviewed several candidates and hired Brad Howser, a longtime administrator for a four-physician medical office. Howser spent the first few weeks quietly studying BS&D’s financial data and observing employees at work. Then he became more outspoken and assertive. Although the partners had never cared to monitor what time employees came or left, Howser began requiring all employees to start by 9:00 each morning. The graphic artist and one of the salespeople complained that flexible hours were necessary for their childcare arrangements, but Howser was unyielding. He also questioned whether the employees had been shopping carefully for supplies, indicating that from then on, he would be making all purchases, and only after the employees submitted their requests on a form of his design. Finally, to promote what he called team spirit, Howser began scheduling weekly Monday-morning staff meetings. He would offer motivational thoughts based
on his experience at his previous job and invite the employees to share any work-related concerns or ideas they might have. Generally, the employees chose not to share.
Initially, the partners were impressed with Howser’s vigorous approach to his job. They felt more productive than they had been in years because Howser was handling employee concerns himself. Then the top salesperson quit, followed by the social media expert. The bookkeeper asked if she might meet with the partners. “Is it something you should be discussing with Brad?” Rachel asked her. The bookkeeper replied that, no, it was about Brad. All the employees were unhappy with him, and more were likely to leave.
1.Assume that hiring a general manager of operations was a good idea. What leadership style would be most effective in this position? Why?
2. What leader behaviors did Brad Howser exhibit? How well did they fit the needs of the ad agency?
3. Consider your own leadership style. What are some of your tendencies, and how might you change your perspective?
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