Case Studies to Illustrate the Five Practices

Joseph W. Harder

Q: I am designing a leadership course for MBA students. We are considering designing it around The Leadership Challenge. I would like suggestions for specific case studies which illustrate one or more of The Five Practices to use in our curriculum.

A: The world is brimming with cases suitable for such a course. Some cases we study in conjunction with The Five Practices at Darden's executive education program include: Warner Cable, which may be more of a negative example of leadership styles, in some ways, but always generates very good discussion; Peter Browning at Continental White Cap which addresses evolutionary organizational change; and Philip Justus at eBay Germany which features good cross-cultural and high tech aspects. John Smithers at Sigtek focuses on leading change from the middle, in a not very successful Six Sigma implementation, that can be examined and discussed using the Five Practices even if they were not present (e.g., where did John Smithers fall short?).

Examples of cases that I use in my elective course at Darden all demonstrate at least some of the Practices: Phil Jackson and the Chicago Bulls; Louis Gerstner and Lotus Development Corporation (a takeover scenario); and Play (a multimedia case about a small creativity consulting firm). Another Darden case worth previewing is the Chicago Park District, which is about very large scale organizational change in a failing public organization.

And finally, a case from Thunderbird: Ricardo Semler at Semco offers a very compelling story of drastic organizational change, covering all Five Practices.

Joseph W. Harder Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. His research interests include distributive and procedural justice in organizations, the effects of perceived injustice on individual performance, determinants of individual and organizational performance, pay-for-performance systems, and perceptions and effects of leadership. Harder has taught executive education in the U.S., Asia, Europe, Central, and South America.

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