Dennis is the president of the kitchen and bathroom supplies division of a manufacturing company. His division manufactures and sells to retailers and wholesalers such items as sinks, refrigerators, ovens, ranges, bathtubs, showers, toilets, and associated plumbing. The company products are sold through home supplies stores, department stores, and large hardware stores, as well as directly to consumers online.
One day Dennis was discussing how well he was performing as a leader with Kristen, the vice president of human resources. Kristen said, “We will review some of the multirater feedback with you. It appears to be consistent with some of the informal comments I have heard about your leadership as the division president. Your top-management team likes the strong leadership you bring to the division, but they think you play favorites.”
“What do you mean by that?” said Dennis.
Kristen replied, “I want to show you some of the written comments on the anonymous forms completed online. You will most likely find it helps explain the comments about you playing favorites.
“Manager A says that you are a kind and caring leader who always takes her needs into account. When she needed time off to take care of a parent who was moving to a nursing home, you gave her three days off with pay. When she wanted some experience with analytics, you found the right project for her.
“Manager B says that you can be harsh and indifferent. One time he told you that if you could hire one more online sales support representative, he could boost sales by 10 percent. He said that you flatly rejected his request, saying there was no money in the budget for an additional hire.
“Manager C says that you talk too much in meetings, both face-to-face and virtual meetings, about our director of marketing. You talk as if that person were singlehandedly responsible for the success of our division.
“Manager D says that you practically ignore her. If she tries to tell you something funny, you don’t even smile. She thinks that you are a good strategic leader but that you act like a zombie toward her.”
Dennis said to Kristen, “It’s good to know that I am viewed as an effective leader. Yet I find some of this feedback troubling. I thought that an effective leader was supposed to have different relationships with different subordinates. How else can you deal with the reality that each subordinate is different?”