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Leadership Case Studies

Here is a sample of three case studies from the book, Leadership Case Studies, that are most instructive and impactful to developing leadership skills.

Leadership Case Studies

For the past 30 years, I have conducted seminars and workshops and taught college classes on leadership.

I used a variety of teaching aids including books, articles, case studies, role-plays, and videos.

I recently created a book, Leadership Case Studies that includes some of the case studies and role-plays that I found to be most instructive and impactful.

Here is a sample of three case studies.

Peter Weaver Case Study

Peter Weaver doesn’t like to follow the crowd. He thinks groupthink is a common problem in many organizations. This former director of marketing for a consumer products company believes differences of opinion should be heard and appreciated. As Weaver states, “I have always believed I should speak for what I believe to be true.”

He demonstrated his belief in being direct and candid throughout his career. On one occasion, he was assigned to market Paul’s spaghetti-sauce products. During the brand review, the company president said, “Our spaghetti sauce is losing out to price-cutting competitors. We need to cut our prices!”

Peter found the courage to say he disagreed with the president. He then explained the product line needed more variety and a larger advertising budget. Prices should not be cut. The president accepted Weaver’s reasoning. Later, his supervisor approached him and said, “I wanted to say that, but I just didn’t have the courage to challenge the president.”

On another occasion, the president sent Weaver and 16 other executives to a weeklong seminar on strategic planning. Weaver soon concluded the consultants were off base and going down the wrong path. Between sessions, most of the other executives indicated they didn’t think the consultants were on the right path. The consultants heard about the dissent and dramatically asked participants whether they were in or out. Those who said “Out” had to leave immediately.

As the consultants went around the room, every executive who privately grumbled about the session said “In.” Weaver was fourth from last. When it was his turn, he said “Out” and left the room.

All leaders spend time in reflection and self-examination to identify what they truly believe and value. Their beliefs are tested and fine-tuned over time. True leaders can tell you, without hesitation, what they believe and why. They don’t need a teleprompter to remind them of their core beliefs. And, they find the courage to speak up even when they know others will disagree.

  • What leadership traits did Weaver exhibit?
  • If you were in Weaver’s shoes, what would you have done?
  • Where does courage come from?
  • List your three most important values.

Dealing with a Crisis Case Study

Assume you are the VP of Sales and Marketing for a large insurance company. Once a year your company rewards and recognizes the top 100 sales agents by taking them to a luxury resort for a four-day conference. Business presentation meetings are held during the morning. Afternoons are free time. Agents and spouses can choose from an assortment of activities including golf, tennis, boating, fishing, shopping, swimming, etc.

On day 2 at 3:00 p.m., you are at the gym working out on the treadmill, when you see Sue your administrative assistant rushing towards you. She says, “I need to talk to you immediately.”

You get off the treadmill and say, “What’s up?” Sue states, “We’ve had a tragedy. Several agents went boating and swimming at the lake. Randy, our agent from California died while swimming.”

(Background information – Randy is 28 years old. His wife did not come on the trip. She is home in California with their three children).

  • Explain what you would communicate to the following people.
  • Your Human Resources Department
  • The local police
  • The attendees at the conference (Would you continue the conference?)
  • How will you notify Randy’s wife?
  • If Randy’s wife and a few family members want to visit the location of Randy’s death, what would you do?
  • What are some “guiding principles” that leaders need to follow in a crisis situation?

 Arsenic and Old Lace Case Study

Review the YouTube video, “ I’ll show them who is boss Arsenic and Old Lace.”   

Background Information

The Vernon Road Bleaching and Dyeing Company is a British lace dyeing business. It was purchased in bankruptcy by the father/son team of Henry and Richard Chaplin. Richard has been acting as “Managing Director” which is the same as a general manager or president of a company.

The company has had 50-to-150 employees with 35-to-100 being shop floor, production employees. The company produces and sells various dyed fabrics to the garment industry.

Gerry Robinson is a consultant who was asked to help transform methods of conducting business to save the company.

Jeff is the factory manager.

  • What are Richard’s strengths and weaknesses as a leader?
  • What could Richard have done to make the problems of quality and unhappy customers more visible to the workforce?
  • What do you think Richard’s top three priorities should be for the next 12 months?
  • What could Richard have done to motivate the workforce?
  • Evaluate Jeff’s approach and effectiveness as a leader.

The book contains 16 case studies, four role-plays, and six articles. I hope you find some of the content useful and helpful in your efforts to teach leadership.

Click for additional leadership case studies and resources .

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Hertz CEO Kathryn Marinello with CFO Jamere Jackson and other members of the executive team in 2017

Top 40 Most Popular Case Studies of 2021

Two cases about Hertz claimed top spots in 2021's Top 40 Most Popular Case Studies

Two cases on the uses of debt and equity at Hertz claimed top spots in the CRDT’s (Case Research and Development Team) 2021 top 40 review of cases.

Hertz (A) took the top spot. The case details the financial structure of the rental car company through the end of 2019. Hertz (B), which ranked third in CRDT’s list, describes the company’s struggles during the early part of the COVID pandemic and its eventual need to enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

The success of the Hertz cases was unprecedented for the top 40 list. Usually, cases take a number of years to gain popularity, but the Hertz cases claimed top spots in their first year of release. Hertz (A) also became the first ‘cooked’ case to top the annual review, as all of the other winners had been web-based ‘raw’ cases.

Besides introducing students to the complicated financing required to maintain an enormous fleet of cars, the Hertz cases also expanded the diversity of case protagonists. Kathyrn Marinello was the CEO of Hertz during this period and the CFO, Jamere Jackson is black.

Sandwiched between the two Hertz cases, Coffee 2016, a perennial best seller, finished second. “Glory, Glory, Man United!” a case about an English football team’s IPO made a surprise move to number four.  Cases on search fund boards, the future of malls,  Norway’s Sovereign Wealth fund, Prodigy Finance, the Mayo Clinic, and Cadbury rounded out the top ten.

Other year-end data for 2021 showed:

  • Online “raw” case usage remained steady as compared to 2020 with over 35K users from 170 countries and all 50 U.S. states interacting with 196 cases.
  • Fifty four percent of raw case users came from outside the U.S..
  • The Yale School of Management (SOM) case study directory pages received over 160K page views from 177 countries with approximately a third originating in India followed by the U.S. and the Philippines.
  • Twenty-six of the cases in the list are raw cases.
  • A third of the cases feature a woman protagonist.
  • Orders for Yale SOM case studies increased by almost 50% compared to 2020.
  • The top 40 cases were supervised by 19 different Yale SOM faculty members, several supervising multiple cases.

CRDT compiled the Top 40 list by combining data from its case store, Google Analytics, and other measures of interest and adoption.

All of this year’s Top 40 cases are available for purchase from the Yale Management Media store .

And the Top 40 cases studies of 2021 are:

1.   Hertz Global Holdings (A): Uses of Debt and Equity

2.   Coffee 2016

3.   Hertz Global Holdings (B): Uses of Debt and Equity 2020

4.   Glory, Glory Man United!

5.   Search Fund Company Boards: How CEOs Can Build Boards to Help Them Thrive

6.   The Future of Malls: Was Decline Inevitable?

7.   Strategy for Norway's Pension Fund Global

8.   Prodigy Finance

9.   Design at Mayo

10. Cadbury

11. City Hospital Emergency Room

13. Volkswagen

14. Marina Bay Sands

15. Shake Shack IPO

16. Mastercard

17. Netflix

18. Ant Financial

19. AXA: Creating the New CR Metrics

20. IBM Corporate Service Corps

21. Business Leadership in South Africa's 1994 Reforms

22. Alternative Meat Industry

23. Children's Premier

24. Khalil Tawil and Umi (A)

25. Palm Oil 2016

26. Teach For All: Designing a Global Network

27. What's Next? Search Fund Entrepreneurs Reflect on Life After Exit

28. Searching for a Search Fund Structure: A Student Takes a Tour of Various Options

30. Project Sammaan

31. Commonfund ESG

32. Polaroid

33. Connecticut Green Bank 2018: After the Raid

34. FieldFresh Foods

35. The Alibaba Group

36. 360 State Street: Real Options

37. Herman Miller

38. AgBiome

39. Nathan Cummings Foundation

40. Toyota 2010

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Developing Leaders and Managers: A Case Study

  • Author: Sheryl McAtee
  • Management, Supervision & Leadership

Developing Leaders and Managers: A Case Study

Jeanette started the weekend frustrated. On Wednesday morning, she had asked Bob to have his team draft an executive summary about an emerging challenge for senior management.  Based on feedback from her own coach, Jeanette was working on being clearer with her team about action items, deadlines and the reasons behind them.

With that in mind, on Wednesday, she told Bob that she wanted a two-page draft no later than the end of the day Friday. She and Bob discussed an outline for the summary, with key points to incorporate. Jeanette told Bob she planned to finalize the summary over the weekend, so her boss would have it Monday morning.  Jeanette felt pleased by her clarity, and expected good outcomes based on the discussion.

The end of Friday came, so Jeanette wrote an email to Bob to check on the status. Bob acknowledged that his team had given him a draft by noon, but he had not had time to look at it before the end of the day, and he needed to log off for a family event.  Bob attached the unreviewed draft executive summary to the email, “just in case you need it now.”

Jeanette was irritated. Of course she needed it now! She has clearly explained on Wednesday that she would be working on it over the weekend, and Bob’s lack of focus on a mission-critical item seemed irresponsible. She opened the draft Bob had forwarded and became even more irritated. The document was full of technical jargon and was three pages long – a full page longer than her instructions. It was going to take hours to fix it.

Jeanette considered a few options:

  • Insist that Bob take responsibility for the project, directing him to review the draft and send her his final version by noon Saturday. While this would contradict Jeanette’s commitment to work-life balance, Bob needed the pain of the negative consequence, so he would not make the same mistake again.
  • Write to senior leadership, communicating a delay in the executive summary, so Jeanette would not have to spend her own time on the project over the weekend, and so Bob could “right the ship” upon returning to work on Monday.
  • Finalize the executive summary over the weekend, as promised to senior leadership. Share the revision with Bob and set up a coaching/feedback session on Monday to discuss the problems and what should be done differently next time – both with the timeline and with the document itself.

Pause and think about how you would address this if you were Jeanette.  Would you have pursued one of these options? What other options do you see? What would you have done?

In the end, after taking some time to calm down, Jeanette chose the third option. While this required the most time for Jeanette, it got the senior leaders what they needed and Bob received the coaching that he needed. On Monday, Bob also shared the guilt he felt, recognizing that his boss had to work harder over the weekend because of his failure to manage his time and his team’s work better.

There are no right answers to this case study – how you address it depends on your personality, relationships, organizational culture and roles, as well as the project itself. The development lies in asking the right questions, owning your own development needs and considering the options that both build a better team and a better organization over time.

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  14. Developing Leaders and Managers: A Case Study

    Developing Leaders and Managers: A Case Study. Author: Sheryl McAtee. Categories: Management, Supervision & Leadership. Share on: Jeanette started the weekend frustrated. On Wednesday morning, she had asked Bob to have his team draft an executive summary about an emerging challenge for senior management. Based on feedback from her own coach ...

  15. Six ways of understanding leadership development: An exploration of

    There is also a specific type of critical studies that builds on understanding how leadership is given meaning in different situations but goes one step further by examining the patterns of power and relating them to broader institutional conditions (Alvesson and Spicer, 2012, 2014) as well as exploring the shadow side of leadership development ...

  16. Walking Our Evidence-Based Talk: The Case of Leadership Development in

    A content analysis of 21st-century mission statements of top business schools indicates that the majority sees leader development as critical (Kniffin et al., 2020).Most schools argue that, as important suppliers and gatekeepers of the leadership pipeline, business schools play a crucial role in the formation of future leaders of industries and, more broadly, society.

  17. Leadership Style: Articles, Research, & Case Studies on Leadership

    By making sensitive self-disclosures, leaders can enhance how authentic their followers perceive them to be, leading to positive interpersonal outcomes and potentially organizational ones as well. Aside from the obvious costs of disclosing weaknesses, leaders may also reap surprising benefits from doing so. 03 Feb 2020.

  18. PDF Leadership Theories and Case Studies

    Leadership Theories and Case Studies 3 employees the leader must carry this forth harshly and publicly without any opportunity for the offending employee to respond, and the destructive leader must remember that civilized and subs tantive feedback is his mortal enemy.7 Additional research on destructive leadership can be found in Lipman-

  19. Analysis of Leader Effectiveness in Organization and Knowledge Sharing

    Yukl (2013) defined leadership as "the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to understand and influence the people to realize what is to be done and how and to realize the shared objectives." Chemers (2000) states that leadership is "the process of social influence that one can get the help and support of others to achieve a common objective."

  20. CASE Study #1 Leadership AND Management

    CASE STUDY NO. 1 - LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT. Laura is the associate director of a nonproit agency that provides assistance to children and families. She is the head of a department that focuses on evaluating the skill-building programs the agency provides to families. She reports directly to the agency leadership.

  21. Management skills

    Teaching Smart People How to Learn. Leadership & Managing People Magazine Article. Chris Argyris. Competitive success depends on learning, but most people, including professionals in leadership ...

  22. Practical Case Studies in Management and Leadership

    management skills, assuming that such skills do exist in any given case. Further, in order to comprehend the distinguishing features pertaining to management and leadership, reference should be made to John Kotter's tabular comparison of these concepts in the form of models. Therefore, according to John P. Kotter, in a 2001 Classics of ...

  23. Case Study: Leadership Development at ConstructConnect

    The Advanced Leadership Pathway consists of a series of five workshops focused on Agile project management, strategic insight, visionary leadership, business acumen and financial acumen. Groups of 15-20 high-level leaders learn directly from executives and subject matter experts (SMEs) within the business.

  24. 9 Key Management Skills: How to Show Them on Your Resume

    Leadership. Leadership skills are key to successful management, and a great skill set to include on your resume. Being an effective leader means guiding a team to achieve the company's objectives and contributing to a positive, productive work environment. ... Example of project management skills on a resume: Baraka Conservancy, Project ...

  25. PDF Microsoft Word

    Leadership is about aligning people to the vision that means buy-in and communication, motivation, and inspiration. Management controls or directs people/resources in a group according to principles or values that have been established. Management is a set of processes that keep an organization functioning.

  26. Top 5 Fastest Growing Tech Skills To Learn In 2024, Based On ...

    Contingent workforce management company Magnit identified five core technical skills which are in high demand and are the fastest growing outside of AI related skills. These include: 1.