Demonstrating Effective Leadership: Case study 25 Pennies from Heaven
The leader in the case study is Patrick Ulmer, who is the newly appointed director of the State Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Having been recruited out of state, he faces the issue of recognition in his new office. On the day he goes to makes a pre-visit to his new office, he is mostly ignored by the staffs that he will be managing and directing in a few days from that day. He also faces an ethical issue, which he decides to handle from a humane perspective rather than strictly follow the rules.
On his pre-visit, he meets the state cabinet governor who briefs him on the status of the department he is taking over. He notes from the deliberations that he is taking over an institution with a number of problems. As he toured his new building through the offices, he realized that no one knew him or even bothered to allot him some attention. He further interacted with Henry, a Social Services Field Officer, during lunchtime at the office canteen. Even then, no one noticed he was the new director. Given that his appointment had not been officially made, he decided to keep a low profile until a fortnight when it would be made official that he is the director of the department.
Deciding to maintain a low profile in the organization was a prudent course of action for Mr. Ulmer. A low profile enabled him to study the culture of the organization from a neutral perspective (Kotter, 2011). Since no staffs knew he is the new director, he interacted with them as a mere customer. For instance, he was in a position to identify lapses in customer confidentiality; he noticed that he was ignored even when he walked through areas where it was clear that the presence of an unauthorized individual might compromise clients’ confidentiality. Besides, he also noted that the department’s clients were not courteously invited for service. This is because nobody paid attention to him even in the areas where he should have been treated as a customer.
At the office canteen, Mr. Ulmer finds Henry, who was addressing the case of an old woman that had just won about $1000 in a gamble. According to the case study, the inclusion of the income of that lottery win excluded her from the aid of the department. This was the right thing to do according to the health care policy of the department. Doing this, however, would need a lot of man-hours which, in turn, would shut her off for a long period of time. As such, Mr. Ulmer chose a scenario where the existing policy was contravening the humane thing to do. He realized that the principal purpose of the department is to help out deserving citizens with their health care expenses. Given that the lottery income was merely transitional, not permanent, shutting away the old lady would not be a socially responsible action. The old lady was advised to spend the income and give an account of the expenditure to the department; i.e. to “spend down”. He thought that if he would later be dragged to court by social security for shutting her away, he would have to admit the action even if it would cost him his job.
In this account, the importance of social responsibility in the department sector is exemplified. Mr. Ulmer rightly strikes a balance between the existing policies and his social responsibility towards the department’s clients as they make the vulnerable class in society. He is careful to work in the best interests of the department as well as its clients. This reveals the leader as a shrewd relationship builder. He is able to balance his professional requirements and the interests of other stakeholders of the department. The leader reckons the importance of stakeholders and associates of the department and thus approaches them from a participatory dimension as opposed to the authoritarian approach (Anderson, 2001).
He maintains a low profile upon realizing that the department was plagued with problems. This helps to assure the cabinet that he was not a disruptive leader. He wins the confidence of the cabinet by being keen to note down the existing pitfalls of the department and later giving himself some time to think about the department. As outlined in the conclusion of the case study, he realized that he had a lot to think about between now and then. Mr. Ulmer also holds the department’s clients in high esteem and aims to keep good relations with them.
The most significant tool of communication he uses is verbal communication (Bryman, 1996). By talking to Henry at the office canteen, he succeeds in giving him a new approach of handling ethical health care issues. His disposition towards resistance is analytical – he first observes and then makes his move. Such an approach to issues makes him an excellent relationship builder (Northouse, 2007). He is less likely to start quarrels and fights with the staff and is more likely to help all stakeholders to make hard decisions pertaining to their relationship with the department. He prefers verbal communication since it has the advantage of a personal touch in delivery. Besides, he is able to deliver comprehensible solutions using verbal communication as opposed to written communication. He is most likely to use formal writing in disciplinary cases or very high level concessions (Zaccaro, Kemp, & Bader, 2004).
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