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Management Styles : Leaders Who Had It
Human Resources » Case Studies

Chrm Message From: proftandon Total Posts: 101 Join Date: 04/09/2006
Rank: Leader Post Date: 27/12/2006 01:39:49 Points: 505 Location: United States

We often discuss on management styles existent in our organizations and are always curious as to what the management leaders follow and practice for their corporate success. Do they follow a distinct approach towards management or do they follow predetermined leaderhip assumptions ?

To give a glimpse on that subject, let us read the remarkable stories presented below for a much detailed reflection of the managerial style scenario..

Management Styles: remarkable stories

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity." - George S. Patton (1885-1945)

General Electric, Continental Airlines and Warnaco Inc. have all enjoyed great success in recent years. All three had one thing in common - a distinctive style of management from their leaders that enabled remarkable things to happen. Read the details in our management styles digest, and gain access to top quality management information from Emerald.

- Welch
- Brenneman
- Bethune
- Wachner

How many of these names do you recognize? All four of them tell a fascinating management story in themselves. They are examples of leading business figures who have stood out from the rest and made remarkable things happen.


Jack Welch - General Electric

John F. "Jack" Welch has led General Electric since 1981 and helped to transform it into the world's most valuable company.

Welch's management style has been well documented. His 'take no prisoners' approach has enabled him to get a tight grip on the reins at GE. Even after he steps down at the end of this year, his management style is sure to live on for years to come. But how exactly do you manage an organization of some 340,000 global employees? One thing is for certain: you need a strong personality and the ability to keep your feet on the ground. Welch was once quoted as saying: "You manage it like a small organization, you just don't get hung up on the zeros."

Welch seems to have been able to find the elusive balance between people, customer and business. As much as 20 per cent of his time is spent interacting with customers. He has also led the way in introducing management development courses and embraced one of the largest corporate quality programs ever undertaken in the US - Six Sigma.

All in all, Welch's skills and management style have delivered record revenue and earnings figures year after year, while the heads of other big companies have come crashing down to earth around him.

Greg Brenneman and Gordon Bethune - Continental Airlines

In 1993, Continental Airlines was facing its third bankruptcy. The airline was scoring consistently badly for customer service, was generally inefficient and alienated much of its staff. Nor had it made a profit for15 years...

However, eight years on Continental has announced its 24th consecutive profitable quarter. It has been included in the 2001 "Fortune 100 best companies to work for" and was also named airline of the year for 2001 by Air Transport World. A stunning turnaround in anybody's estimation!

Continental's change in fortunes is largely thanks to the management insights of Greg Brenneman and Gordon Bethune. In the face of true adversity, Brenneman (President and COO) and Bethune (Chairman and CEO) were able to pull Continental out of a nosedive and restore employee trust, belief and motivation. They formulated and implemented a new plan to shake up the business and tackle the future. The so-called "Go Forward Plan", now in its sixth year of operation, consisted of a four-point strategy for increasing market share, sorting out the bleak financial situation, making the airline reliable and developing a trusting company culture.

The two leaders' management styles were ones of gritty determination and self-belief. Brenneman knew that most of the incumbent Continental board had to go in order to transform the airline into a world-beater. Some may see replacing 50 of the 61-strong management team as ruthless, but Brenneman and Bethune saw it as crucial in putting the company back on the road to health. A customer-facing approach was also adopted so that the company could determine exactly what airline customers wanted and what they would be willing to pay for it. Generous employee incentive schemes were also started.

Bethune and Brenneman have led an amazing turnaround at Continental. Back in 1993 the airline was near the bottom of every customer satisfaction survey, but over the last three years it has been awarded no less than 28 dazzling awards and accolades for its service, management and customer focus.


Linda Wachner - Warnaco Inc.

In 1992, Linda Wachner was named America's most successful businesswoman by Fortune Magazine. Wachner had been the influence behind the buyout of Warnaco Inc, a maker and distributor of underwear, and had transformed the company into an investors dream. The company's annual income was boosted from around $600 million to over $2.25 billion, and Wachner was praised for her vision and leadership in helping to turn the company into such an important player.

A remarkable story in itself. However, nine years on and the picture is very different. The company recently announced annual losses of $338 million and shares have fallen from a high of over $44 to just over 75¢. This is grim news for investors and grim news for Wachner.

Having been a business success story for so long, in the midst of the problems Warnaco was facing alarming criticisms of Wachner's management style began to emerge. Wachner herself had insisted that her style was "tough, but fair", yet former employees were claiming that her approach could be pinpointed as the reason for the company's nosedive. Among the accusations cited were fierce criticisms of employees, an autocratic to the point of abusive approach to management and personal attacks on employees which have left the company with an excessively high rate of staff turnover.

The spectacular demise of Warnaco is certainly a sad story and raises some interesting questions. For instance, despite all the criticisms raised, exactly how responsible can a top manager be for the reversal of fortunes of an organization such as Warnaco?


These three short stories provide an intriguing look into the world of management. GE, Warnaco and Continental have all enjoyed great success in recent times. It can be noted how particular management styles have contributed to these successes, and in the last case also to apparent failure.

Jack Welch's general business acumen, his ability to understand customer needs and his skills at teaching employees have all contributed to the success of GE. Gordon Bethune and Greg Brenneman used an open style of management to restore employee confidence and push ahead with a successful recovery strategy. Linda Wachner used her authoritative approach to drive Warnaco to new heights but then discovered to her cost that an overly autocratic management style is not to the taste of everyone.

Perhaps in business, General Patton's quote rings as true as ever...

Harvard Business Review, October 1998
Business Week, June 1998
The New York Times Online, May 2001

Now was that an interesting read, hope it really was !!

Prof Tandon

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