This case shows how the new managing director of LVV transformed this trucking company from a “fossilized” and “arthritic” minor subsidiary of a Dutch shipping group into a revitalized organization. The case looks at how her own leadership characteristics contributed to the development of an authentizotic culture of trust, affiliation, and meaning for employees, and how the financial situation of the company was turned around as a result. Emma van Nijmegen is a rare example of a female top executive in a typically male dominated industry (Shipping and Transport).
This case aims to show how LVVs remarkable turnaround from a loss making company in 1996 to a very profitable market-focused organization, was facilitated by van Nijmegen’s focus on a change of culture, a change of image and a drive for open communication.
In our discussion of the case and how it is related to the organizational behavior theory, we are going to talk about Authentizotic Organizations, Female Top Executives, Leadership, Corporate Culture and Corporate Transformation.
In an article entitled “Creating authentizotic organizations: Well-functioning individuals in vibrant companies,” Kets de Vires (2001) asserted: “When we look forward to the new millennium there are many themes in the world or work that are disquieting. A major preoccupation will be stress in the workplace. Statistics about illness, underperformance, and absenteeism tell a dramatic tale of dysfunctionality at work. (…) Work, however, does not necessarily need to be stressful. On the contrary, work can be an anchor of psychological well-being, a way of establishing identity and maintaining self esteem”. Then, the author proposed the concept of “authentizotic organizations” to mean the workplaces where people can experiment seven senses: sense of purpose, sense of self-determination, sense of impact, sense of competence, sense of belonging, sense of enjoyment, and sense of meaning.
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In the case, we can notice that even Emma may not be aware of the term Authentizotic Organization, but in her leadership style and guidance and culture change, she is believed to be creating these senses into her subordinates and employees.
The second issue we are going to talk about is the female top executives. Women hold 43 percent of executive, administrative and managerial occupations, but they account for less than 3 percent to 5 percent of top executive positions in the United States, according to data from the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
The case is not so much different in the rest of the world. Not all the news is bad. Women are moving up, but slowly. The percentage of Fortune 500 companies where women hold a quarter or more of corporate officer titles has doubled since 1995, according to Catalyst, the New York based nonprofit research and advisory organization working to advance women in business. Despite these gains, women still hold few leadership positions at large firms. Catalyst reports that 90 of Fortune 500 firms did not have a single female corporate officer, not much progress since 1995 when 115 companies had no female officers, and only four of the Fortune 500 and eight of the 1,000 largest firms have female CEOs.
One factor affecting women’s careers is that they tend to leave and re-enter the workforce more than men do, interrupting their careers for childbearing, child rearing, elder care and other family and personal responsibilities. Professor Fletcher suggests that the vision of what makes a competent leader is changing to better match today’s business needs. This shift may give women the upper hand because they are more in tune with today’s working environments. Many companies are no longer looking for top-down authority figures, but want more collaborative, inclusive approaches to leadership within flatter companies, experts say. But the old view hasn’t totally given way yet, “The masculine image of the heroic leader is amazingly resilient, in spite of the needs in today’s economy,” says Fletcher. She notes that some women who have made it to the top have indeed “mimicked a male role,” that is, they may be single, or have no children or have a stay-at-home spouse who ends up taking a secondary career role or none at all.
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The fact that Emma was a woman, posed a number of question marks when she was first nominated for the position of the managing director for LVV, especially that this industry was famous for being a male dominated industry. Later on, with her open communication skills and supportive leadership style, she proved to be the right person for the job. There is another thing that could have played an important role in her success, which is the fact that she’s not married, so she doesn’t have extra responsibilities that could interrupt her job responsibilities.
Emma has the characteristics for a good and successful leader; she has the Vision, Values & Beliefs, Action and Motivation. In addition, Emma developed an open communication environment depending on transparency and honesty. She was able to hear critics from everyone by creating an environment that is based on 360 degree feedback, where everyone could provide feedback about everyone behavior.
The issue of Emma being a woman shows how Emotional Intelligence characteristics are integrated with her leadership style. Her leadership style as we mentioned earlier could be considered as a supportive style mainly, but in our opinion it is a combination of different approaches such as directive, coaching and supportive. It is directive because she began by directing the team members for the new policies and working way, but at the same time she was coaching them for developing their communication skills, and supported them by encouraging everyone to feel that he/she is a part of the company and the company is theirs. She supported everyone to do the job his way as long as it is not conflicting with the overall job process. Her mixed leadership style is integrated with high level of emotions that was spread among the subordinates and employees of LVV; she encouraged everyone to put their feelings on the table while discussing issues. This leadership style takes us back to the first point we raised in the analysis, which is the authentizotic organization, where Emma’s style was creating the seven aforementioned senses in her team.
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Emma’s vision provided her with a purpose, which is to return LVV into profit making organization. And by making the vision clear for her and her employees made everything clear on what they are going to do. The values and beliefs she applied to the organization are based on her own set of values and beliefs. These values were the force, energy and fuel for action toward excellence in the accomplishments of the objectives of the organization. Motivation is a force to help people to achieve goals in work. Emma’s motivational skills are considered good, she used to split her end year bonus with her employees, and she goes with them to the work field, and she’s not autocratic or snob, she behaves as any one of them. One thing is worth mentioning here is that she’s using a management style which is managing by walking around.
One last issue in the case analysis is the corporate culture and corporate transformation.
In an age of increasing global and local competition, the ability of an organization to build a corporate culture that attracts and retains talented people is rapidly emerging as the most important criterion for financial success. Executives and employees are searching for organizations that will support then in their personal and professional growth. They want to work for companies that are not only great places to work, but are also socially responsible and embrace sustainable development.
Like individuals, organizations change continuously, reacting to developments in their markets and to the arrival and departure of key people. In a large company, these changes go on more or less unnoticed. But sometimes a company must change more quickly than this gradual evolution allows; it needs a break with the past, an accelerated pace of change, a transformation.
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Successful corporate transformations and their leaders become the stuff of business legend. Transformed companies have achieved unprecedented competitive power, a pride in everything they undertake, an out sized returns to shareholders. Rather oddly, it is the leaders of companies in crisis who may be best placed to achieve a true transformation.
In order to achieve corporate transformation, a leader needs to change on two major sides, the people side and the organizational side. On the people’s side, they need to make people feel responsible and conscious for their job by creating values that are worth for the employees. Employees must feel they are working in their own organizations, and they have to develop a degree of self-actualization and personal growth, meaning and community belongingness, and therefore, by creating this transformation on the individual level, a transformation on the organization level would occur much more easily.
Emma at LVV began her changes by transformation on the individual level, she found that there was no team spirit among the old management team, and she started creating a new management team that is based on clear communication, and cohesiveness. This change then was extended to the employees, who were having a good paycheck for the jobs they are doing, so the paycheck were not an incentive for the employees to work harder, so Emma began by developing the sense of belongingness in them, and used different methods for motivation. This made her succeed in transformation on the individual level. On the organizational level, Emma began by changing the environment, and then a change of the image, form a normal transportation and Parcel Company into first class transportation and Parcel Company by providing a high level of quality service at relatively low prices compared to the service.
By the transformation she did on the two levels, Emma created the following values, Honesty & Accountability, Responsibility, Commitment and Reliability on the individual level. On the corporate level the values of Accountability, Customer Satisfaction, Teamwork, Quality and Continuous Improvement are supported.
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Emma created a strong solid organization that is meant to be successful under any circumstances, but one issue is that all the organization is revolving around her as the inspiring element. Everyone is inspired by her, and if a merger done with the Dutch company and a Dutch manager with the autocratic Dutch management style replaced Emma, then there is a probability that the team spirit and values that Emma created would fade away and hence would affect the continuity of the organization.