Leadership Style: What Do People Do When they are Leading?
Hewlett Packard (HP) remains one of the most successful computer and related services company in the Diversified Computer Systems industry. In this text, I concern myself with the leadership style of Meg Whitman -- the CEO of HP. In so doing, I will amongst other things analyze how her leadership style aligns with the company's culture. I will also examine Whitman's strengths, weaknesses as well as personal and organizational values.
Born in 1956, Whitman has over the years earned herself an enviable reputation as an efficient and brilliant corporate executive keen on making a mark in a corporate environment dominated by men. Having cut her teeth at Hasbro, Stride Rite, Disney, and most notably eBay where served as CEO for a decade, Whitman rose to become the head of HP. She has also in the past tried her hand in elective politics where she expressed her interest for California's gubernatorial seat in 2010. It was after her defeat in the said race that she was appointed as CEO of HP.
Leadership Style and Philosophy
Taking into consideration her ability to inspire enthusiasm and relate well with others, Whitman could be regarded a charismatic leader. In the words of Lussier (2011), "charismatic leadership is a leadership style that inspires loyalty, enthusiasm, and high levels of performance" (p. 337). At the time of Whitman's appointment as CEO of HP, the company was in a mess. In addition to facing stiff competition from the likes of Dell, HP's operating margins were largely on a free fall. Shortly after her appointment, Whitman persuaded the top executives of the computer giant to come up with a strategy on how to further enhance the competitiveness of HP. Being a team builder, she was able to motivate others to move forward -- an undertaking that helped fix HP's immediate problems.
A true charismatic leader, Whitman prefers to make use of influence as opposed to force. Indeed, Whitman's natural charisma has been evident all along. As Rajiv Dutta, an eBay employee points out, Whitman has that rare personal magnetism that seems to draw people to her (Hellriegel and Slocum, 2009). In the words of Dutta (as cited in Hellriegel and Slocum, 2009), "she makes you want to do the right thing" (p. 317). By making use of influence as opposed to force, Whitman inspires her followers to have trust in her vision. This explains her previous successes most particularly at eBay where she managed to further enhance the company's bottom-line at a time when other internet companies were failing. Her charm also remains evident in her conduct and interaction with others. In addition to having a jovial personality, Whitman's trademark smile is largely infectious. In the final analysis therefore, it is by dint of her unique charm and personality that Whitman gathers and influences followers.
Personal and Organizational Values
In the words of Fox (2007), "personal values represent fundamental convictions that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally preferable to an opposite or converse one" (p. 54). As the author further points out, values are essentially a reflection of the ideas of an individual with regard to what is good or right. In addition to being impartial, Whitman is also an honest individual who embodies the basic tenets of integrity. This is more so the case given that throughout her career, she has not been accused of engaging in any kind of impropriety whatsoever. It is also important to note that Whitman does not routinely tell people what to do. Instead, she prefers to motivate others towards action. This is an indication that she values initiative. Her tendency to take into consideration the viewpoints of everyone else before adopting a course of action is also an indicator of her accountability and respect for teamwork. Some of the decisions Whitman has made in the recent past have also demonstrated that in addition to being flexible, she is also courageous. A good example of this is her decision to merge HP's PC business with the Printer unit. Being who she is, Whitman has soldiered on in the face of criticism. Whitman also has a tendency to put the needs of customers first. According to Lehman and Dufrene (2008), this is a value that was ingrained in her during her service at Procter & Gamble.
When it comes to organizational values, these are things that are seen as being important or critical when it comes to guiding the individual behaviors of individuals within the organization. In some cases, organizational values tend to be in accord with the personal values of the top executives. With regard to HP under Whitman, some of the evident organizational values include but they are not limited to service to clients, integrity, and professionalism. Teamwork is also held in high regard at HP.
Whitman's Values and their Impact on Ethical Behavior
In basic terms, the values of the top executives of firms are indicators of the ethical bearing of the organizations that they head. Given the important role values play in our professionals and private lives, the relevance of the said values cannot be overstated when it comes to sound decision making. For this reason, there exists a strong connection between the values of a leader and the ethical behavior within an organization. To begin with, Whitman's values could result in enhanced employee respect and loyalty. This respect and royalty is of great importance when it comes to the minimization of instances of embezzlement, fraud, and sabotage. Similarly, Whitman's integrity, professionalism, and impartiality also help in the transformation of HP into a value-based decision making model. By ensuring that the company is not only motivated by the need to maximize shareholder wealth, Whitman seeks to ensure that the organization identifies and respects the needs of other shareholders including but not limited to the communities, employees, suppliers, etc. This minimizes the probability of scandals whose underlying motivation is in most cases the enhancement of the bottom-line.
Whitman's Strengths and Weaknesses
Like any other business leader, Whitman has strengths and weaknesses. One of her key strengths is the ability to communicate effectively and relate well with others. Indeed, according to Lehman and Dufrene (2008), Whitman's track record clearly demonstrates that in addition to being a good collaborator and relation builder, she is also a good listener. It is important to note that the ability to communicate in an efficient and coherent manner cannot be overstated when it comes to the successful articulation of a leader's vision. This is a strength that has seen Whitman effectively implement change where others could have failed miserably. For instance, during her reign at eBay, she was able to institute a number of changes without alienating the employees of the company. Some of the said changes include but they are not limited to splitting the business into several categories. Secondly, she also comes across as being decisive. This is more so the case given that she has not shied away from making major decisions in the past in an attempt to further enhance the success of the organizations she runs. For instance, one of the most popular decisions Whitman made on being appointed as CEO of eBay was to ban the sale of weapons on the company's platform. Lastly, Whitman is also courageous and is not afraid of criticism.
Again, like any other business leader, Whitman also has a number of weaknesses. To begin with, she tends to be hot tempered when under pressure. To highlight this, Whitman has in the past been accused of shoving and yelling at an employee -- an action she attributed to "tensions that surface in any high-pressure work environment" (Ferris and Treadway, 2012). Next as Ferris and Treadway observe, Whitman can also be unreasonably…