Alex Sander is proving brilliant and effective in certain areas of his career at Landon Care Products, there are certain areas of his leadership that needs improvement. Mr. Sander can only improve as a leader when these areas receive attention. However, the indications of the case seem to suggest that this will be no easy task. Alex Sander appears to be the kind of person who is so obsessed with perfection that he dismisses everything else in its favor. Ironically, this is not something that creates optimal success for the company. Indeed, all indications are that his followers will become so bewildered and so exhausted that he will ultimately indeed have to handle everything himself.
Sander's current leadership style is one that tends to alienate his coworkers and subordinates. He however appears to believe that his style is focused upon getting the most out of his team. One of the reasons for this self-deception could be the evident success of the products that Mr. Sander launched within a single year at the company.
He does appear to be aware that his quick temper is a flaw, but seems little inclined to attempt a remedy for this. Instead, he makes excuses for his behavior and indicates that there is little he can do to change it. In addition to his temper, Mr. Sander's extreme focus on work to exclusion of all else tends to intimidate his team as well as his peers, as indicated by the survey tables obtained from interviewees.
In addition, workers are also intimidated, overwhelmed and negatively influenced by Mr. Sander's tendency to bury them in information, task lists, and communications with meticulous details about what they are to do in order to perform their work correctly and effectively. This is an ineffective strategy as workers are made to feel that he does not trust them or acknowledge their intelligence.
Interestingly, there were several positive comments about Mr. Sander's work as well. He is for example generous with material rewards such as lunches and bonuses. Other compliments relate to his energy, his ability to learn, to work effectively, and to keep a pace that appears to be inhuman.
From a more negative point-of-view, Mr. Sander is neither fair nor understanding towards his team of workers. He expects of them the same pace that he is maintaining, claiming that it is all good for the company. He has even refused leave and planned holidays to workers he expected to be in the office for very long hours. While longer hours should make for more that is accomplished, it in fact does not. Workers become demoralized and could suffer from increased stress and a basic lack of work satisfaction. These factors will necessarily influence the quality of their work.
One significant occurrence in the case is the reaction of Hansen Leong, Alex's assistant, when he approached the office and heard Sander loudly expressing his unhappiness with a worker. He not only sympathized with the worker, Betsy Garrison, but also rolled his eyes indignantly at Sander's already legendary temper. What Sander then regards as a minor flaw that helps him to get the "best" out of people in fact only serves to intimidate and demoralize them. Indeed, he is not obtaining anything from Betsy, as he decided to do the work himself. This is not effective leadership.
The problem is that, if things continue in this fashion, Sander will soon find himself alone, having to handle all the work himself, with his staff either being incapacitated by the inhuman daily workload or their stress levels. This will impact directly upon the effectiveness of the company in the long run. While Mr. Sander's strategy therefore appears to be effective in the short-term, it is unlikely to be sustainable. A secondary problem is Sander's apparently inability or unwillingness to face the fact that he in fact has a problem. He appears to be in denial about the effect of his actions upon his coworkers and team. He is also unwilling to learn from criticism, and merely puts it down to people not liking him or his style. He does not perceive that there is anything amiss with his effectiveness in the company itself. Indeed, he claims that he does not have time for the new feedback system, and agrees only unwillingly to look at the results of the new feedback system as they pertain to him.
In analyzing the case and searching for solutions, the literature offers valuable insight. A large amount has been written on effective leadership and how to obtain the best work from a team. Additionally, the literature is also a useful assessment tool for what might be missing in the current leadership practice.
Fuller (2007, p. 171) for example describes the coercive and authoritative leadership styles as demanding compliance and mobilizing workers towards a goal, respectively. These leadership styles appear to describe Ales Sander accurately. He does not trust his subordinates to do the jobs he assigns to them. Indeed, he reports that he supervises them constantly, monitoring whether they are on schedule with their tasks, and whether they are struggling. When they are struggling, he does not offer support, but becomes angry and attempts to coerce them into better performance.
The author (Fuller, 2007, p. 172) also mentions the pacesetter leader, which appears to describe Sander even more accurately. This type of leader relentlessly adds innovations to his workload, sets very high standards of performance not only in speaking, but also by exemplifying them in his actions. He continually strives for a better, faster way of doing things and demands that everyone he works with does the same. He has no tolerance for what he considers a lack of commitment or energy. The danger here is that the workplace climate is destroyed, while employees feel overwhelmed by the workload, the atmosphere, and the demands. In short, it creates an extremely unpleasant workplace situation for all involved, which will ultimately impact on the performance.
For the leader who is aware of the need to change, authors such as Maxwell (2007, p. 10) suggest that leaders do not only assess themselves, but let others assess them as well. The problem with Sander is that he appears directly unwilling to accept constructive criticism, especially as this relates to his mentioned flaws. Two of the most glaring problems include that Sander is both arrogant and has a very hot temper. His attitude towards his team is extremely superior, often making them feel like failures for not immediately grasping his vision.
Maxwell suggests specific categories of assessment, including the leader's abilities in terms of his people skills, planning and strategic thinking, vision, and results. In terms of business skills, Sander is brilliant; he is a very good planner and strategic thinker. His vision is ambitious and his results show this. The problem is however that these results will not be sustainable without the help of people. To obtain an effective team and maintain the excellence of their work, the leader must have good people skills as well. Lacking this makes Sander an excellent manager, but not a very good leader.
It also appears that Sander is making one of the classic thought mistakes regarding his own leadership. He was appointed in a leadership position, and because his superiors assumed that he would be able to do the job, he is assuming that his position makes him a good leader. This, according to Maxwell (2007, p. 13), is a classic mistake. What the author refers to as "true leadership" cannot be awarded or assigned by means of position. Instead, he suggests that it "must be earned," much like trust.
Evans (2007, p. 136) mentions trust as an important element in the relationship between leaders and followers. The author suggests that trustworthy leaders most likely demonstrate themselves to be honest, fair, competent and forward-looking. While competence and a sense of the future are no problems for Sander, and while he may even have a fair amount of honesty to his main, he is far from fair. He pushes himself to the absolute limits of human endurance, and expects others to do the same. This erodes his relationships with them, as well as the trust that they are willing to give him.
Maxwell (2007, p. 14) also suggests that one of the best ways to test the quality of a leader is to create "positive change." Sander is clearly unable and unwilling to do this, if his attitude towards criticism is any indication. He does not wish to create positive change in himself, and thus is unlikely to be able to create this in others or in the workplace situation itself. Indeed, he perceives criticism as threatening and ungenerous, rather than a sincere attempt to help him improve his leadership practice while also improving the workplace in general. In terms of Maxwell's assessment tool, Sander is definitely in need of considerable work on his relationships.
Rooke and Torbert (2005, p. 45) connect with Maxwell's ideas by…