Power and leadership in an agency

 

There have been many stories throughout history of leaders who have been corrupted by their power. The very definition of leadership as “a process by which an individual influences the group to achieve a common goal” (Northouse, 2016, p. 6) implies the power to exert influence. Leaders must exert power in order to lead, but they must also strive to understand the complexities of power. Research by French and Raven (1959) and by others (Burns, 1976; Neck & Manz, 1994) provides insight on the types, or bases, of power available to a leader, the process of choosing among those bases, and the motivations for leaders’ choices (Northouse, 2016, p. 379). Recent researchers (Barbuto & Warneke, 2014; Vevere, 2014) also explore the effectiveness of using individual bases of power in particular situations and the effects certain bases of powers have on leaders and those they lead. Armed with this information, leaders can avoid utilizing certain bases of power when the choice may lead to negative consequences. They can instead choose to wield power in ways that will foster organizational success. Understanding the bases also gives both leaders and followers insight into situations they observe and difficult interpersonal interactions they negotiate.

To prepare for this Assignment, consider Case Study 7.1, “His Team Gets the Best Assignments” on pages 150–151 of Northouse (2016).

Submit a 3-page analysis of the case study. In your analysis, do the following:

  • Identify two of French and Raven’s bases of power in the case study, and explain how leaders can use these bases of power to exert influence.
  • Explain how you might use your knowledge of French and Raven’s theory to resolve one of the problems presented in the case study. Justify your response.

7.1

Carly Peters directs the creative department of the advertising agency of Mills, Smith, & Peters. The agency has about 100 employees, 20 of whom work for Carly in the creative department. Typically, the agency maintains 10 major accounts and a number of smaller accounts. It has a reputation for being one of the best advertising and public relations agencies in the country.

In the creative department, there are four major account teams. Each is led by an associate creative director, who reports directly to Carly. In addition, each team has a copywriter, an art director, and a production artist. These four account teams are headed by Jack, Terri, Julie, and Sarah.

Jack and his team get along really well with Carly, and they have done excellent work for their clients at the agency. Of all the teams, Jack’s team is the most creative and talented and the most willing to go the extra mile for Carly. As a result, when Carly has to showcase accounts to upper management, she often uses the work of Jack’s team. Jack and his team members are comfortable confiding in Carly and she in them. Carly is not afraid to allocate extra resources to Jack’s team or to give them free rein on their accounts because they always come through for her.

Terri’s team also performs well for the agency, but Terri is unhappy with how Carly treats her team. She feels that Carly is not fair because she favors Jack’s team. For example, Terri’s team was counseled out of pursuing an ad campaign because the campaign was too risky, whereas Jack’s group was praised for developing a very provocative campaign. Terri feels that Jack’s team is Carly’s pet: His team gets the best assignments, accounts, and budgets. Terri finds it hard to hold back the animosity she feels toward Carly.

Like Terri, Julie is concerned that her team is not in the inner circle, close to Carly. She has noticed repeatedly that Carly favors the other teams. For example, whenever additional people are assigned to team projects, it is always the other teams who get the best writers and art directors. Julie is mystified as to why Carly doesn’t notice her team or try to help it with its work. She feels Carly undervalues her team because Julie knows the quality of her team’s work is indisputable.

Although Sarah agrees with some of Terri’s and Julie’s observations about Carly, she does not feel any antagonism about Carly’s leadership. Sarah has worked for the agency for nearly 10 years, and nothing seems to bother her. Her account teams have never been earthshaking, but they have never been problematic either. Sarah views her team and its work more as a nuts-and-bolts operation in which the team is given an assignment and carries it out. Being in Carly’s inner circle would entail putting in extra time in the evening or on weekends and would create more headaches for Sarah. Therefore, Sarah is happy with her role as it is, and she has little interest in trying to change the way the department works.

Questions

  1. Based on the principles of LMX theory, what observations would you make about Carly’s leadership at Mills, Smith, & Peters?
  2. Is there an in-group and out-group, and if so, which are they?
  3. In what way is Carly’s relationship with the four groups productive or counterproductive to the overall goals of the agency?
  4. Do you think Carly should change her approach toward the associate directors? If so, what should she do differently?

Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

  • Case 7.1, “His Team Gets the Best Assignments” (pp. 151–152)
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