Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Unethical Leadership

On 7th January 2009, Satyam’s founder and Chairman B. Ramalinga Raju admitted that he had systematically falsified accounts as the company expanded from a handful of employees into a back-office giant with a large work force and operations in 66 countries.

Satyam Computer Services was a leading software consultancy, system integration and outsourcing firm in India with clients across 65 countries. It was later taken over by Tech Mahindra Ltd. in April 2009. As Cadbury says in his article, “The character of a company is a matter of importance to those in it, to those who do business with it, and to those who are considering joining it”. A part of this was clearly evident when late last year the World Bank barred Satyam from doing business with it for eight years over "improper benefits" paid to staff. Later, as news of the scam broke out, Satyam lost many other clients to its competitors.

In the four-and-a-half page letter that Mr. Raju wrote to make his confession, he described a small discrepancy that grew beyond his control. He wrote “What started as a marginal gap between actual operating profit and the one reflected in the books of accounts continued to grow over the years. It had attained unmanageable proportions as the size of company operations grew”. His reasoning was that he was trying to save Satyam and similar to what Gellerman describes - a belief that the activity was within reasonable ethical and legal limits….. that it was in the best interest of the corporation.

Satyam’s debacle once again proved what WorldCom and Enron have proven in the past--- leaders can lead their organizations towards glory or disaster. Many theorists like Sims and Brinkmann; and Barnard believe this happens as the leader’s personal values shape the organizational ethics. Some leaders fail to operate from what McCoy calls “a thoughtful set of personal values that provide the foundation for a corporate culture”.

This role of the leader’s values in creating organizational culture is very important in the business world today which is very complex and is constantly throwing challenges at organizations. Peter Senge talks about how organizations need to develop the ability to learn continuously to survive. This continuous learning, according to him, requires transformation of the organizational culture and it’s the role of the leader to facilitate this transformation. Such a leader would help his employees recognize their unquestioned assumptions about the market; customers; the way things work etc., and help them entertain the possibility that they could be wrong. Such a leader would create a climate where failures and mistakes would be openly discussed ….because that is how human beings and organizations learn, by opening up and contemplating on their mistakes and improving them with the help of others.

Therefore, I think, that a leader, who is not open to disclosing and discussing with his employees, the problems the organization is facing, will lead an organization to disaster because he would be preventing his employees and the organization from becoming ‘learners’ and a ‘learning organization’ respectively. As he would be lacking values such as transparency and reflection, he would fail to shape a culture that fosters individual and organizational learning. I would call such a leader unethical even though he may not end up committing a fraud. What are your thoughts?

Implications of Generation Y on Leadership

In the recent years many people have written articles and even books on the new generation of employees entering the workplace, Generation Y. This new generation of employees has very different values and expectations than previous generations we have seen. The young business professionals of this generation are characterized as being very technology savvy, wanting information and results immediately, are money driven, have a sense of entitlement and are very diverse. They value rapid career growth, learning, work/life balance and corporate social responsibility. They are entering a workplace that is multi-generational, sharing their workspaces and competing for jobs with veterans, boomers and X generations that have traditionally valued and expected very different things in the workplace. The difference between generations got me thinking and proposed many questions. Are companies changing their leadership models to adapt to this new generation of employees, or do company’s models always stay the same? Do the same theories that we have been discussing in our class hold true today for leaders dealing with followers in Generation Y? How do leaders remain effective in this new rapidly changing and diverse workplace?

After reading through some articles (sited below) and a few websites (shrm.org & businessweek.com) a few common recommendations came up for leaders of Generation Y employees. Some of the recommendations included, being flexible and adaptable in ones leadership style and being aware of what factors motivate each generation, using these to be able to motivate followers to produce desired results. They also recommend that leadership should promote a heavy concentration on building communication skills and be able to demonstrate authenticity in their leadership.

These recommendations for a model of leadership in this new generation of employees started to look very similar to the models we having been discussing throughout the semester. Reflecting on these recommendations, they touch on understanding leadership from a communication standpoint (Burns, Hackman & Johnson, Bernard, Gardner). They touch on theorist points of leadership as being able to motivate followers to achieve goals and being able to focus on individual development (McGregor, Stogdill, Gardner, Burns, Zaleznik). They also reflect on authenticity in theories that we have discussed such as in servant leadership (Greenleaf) and transformational leadership (Burns). Lastly, they are touching on the flexibility in leadership by leadership depending on the situation and/or context (Heifitz, Cronin, Goleman).

Therefore, do you think that ones model of leadership should or needs to change when dealing with different generations of people? How are companies training Generation Y to be the next generation of leaders? Will this look different then what they have done for previous leaders due to the Generation Y’s values and expectations? And lastly, what are the implications for Generation Z and future generations to come? What can leaders take away from Generation Y to help prepare themselves for future generations?


Smith, S. (2005/2006). Employers and the New Generation of Employees. Community College Journal, 76(3), 9-13.

Wagner, D. (2007). Managing an Age-Diverse Workplace. MIT Sloan Management Review, 48(4), 8-10.

Weinstein, M. (2009). Next-Generation Leaders. Training, 46(4), 17-19.

The Lady Leader

As we are concluding our discussions on defining and exploring leadership, I have found myself wondering what the role gender plays into the definition of leadership at the corporate level. I am particularly curious what the class makes of this, especially considering our class is primarily women (although boys, Al included, I will say have been extremely vocal with regards to all topics). For the most part, all of our readings (even those far dating all of us) are politically correct to not gender-ize leadership. For the most part, it appears that leadership is a combination of traits (DePree), situation (Goleman), and context (Selznick). But I can’t help but wonder if all the characteristics, situations, and contexts which contribute to a successful and effective leader, must be scaled differently depending upon gender. And if it does, does this directly imply that leadership is perhaps more anchored in trait theory (if we can even call gender a trait at all…) than initially thought?

We have spoken on leaders being empathetic, envisioning, and empowering (Choi). But I think that this is limited when speaking upon specific leaders. Often women who are seen as overly empathetic are perceived as overly sensitive and lacking aggression. In contrast, those women who display strict goals and some of the more aggressive tactics, ones that their male counterparts identically mirror, are seen as cutthroat, merciless and witches. My experience with women executives leaders has been limited. But for the most part, I have seen they are perceived as ruthless . Men are in contrast seen as driven and successful. Why is this? And what does it imply for future female leaders? What is the solution for working towards improving the perception of female leaders? I think that the glass ceiling that was in the past more present has cracked, but at the upper executive level, I think is far from being shattered.

As we are working towards characterizing a leader, I think that sometimes our definitions are catered towards the definition of the “male” leader (though I acknowledge not entirely). I don’t think that women can exercise usage of powers (Hughes) as freely as men are able to in the same degree. Coercive power is far more difficult for women to utilize than perhaps it is for men (regardless of its effectiveness). Also along with power, I believe that referent power needs to play a much higher role than legitimate power, simply because often subordinate males still prove to be more resistant to responding to such types of power. In much the same, charisma plays a much larger role in a women’s role as a leader than it may in a male’s role as a leader.

My main question that I am trying to answer is while we are working to qualify leadership, are we taking everything into consideration? Does gender even play a role at all in perception of leadership and thus the effectiveness of leadership? Does being a successful women take away from their status as feminine (such as Carly Fiorina, or even Hilary Clinton)? What types of leadership execution needs to (or unconsciously does) vary or yield depending upon gender?

PERSONAL NOTE: I am not a feminist male-hating individual and instead greatly appreciate the successes of our male counterpart in the progress of the workworld.