Versutia Capital experienced some early success in its infancy due to the emotional attachment its employees had with the company and its leader, Leslie Brinkman. Leslie provided a team oriented, supportive environment based on her core values that, in turn, attracted a diverse group of talented staff members. Initially this appeared to be a great foundation for long-term success. Unfortunately, the recent deterioration of the company’s performance has revealed that Leslie’s leadership under pressure does not match the core values of her organization. Leslie Brinkman must now ask herself “How do I behave under pressure and what signals am I sending my employees?” 1 Analysis Under pressure, Leslie Brinkman behaves impatiently. During office hours, Leslie loses her temper over fluctuations in stock performance. As one analyst recalled, “You had to catch [Leslie] at a good moment …otherwise she might fly off the handle or jump down your throat.”
2 Outside of office hours, Leslie continues to ride her staff. One analyst recalled, “It was not unusual to go to dinner with friends to see that I had three emails from Leslie regarding stock positions …it was understood that I needed to respond, and if I did not, I would often receive a follow up from Leslie asking whether I had received her previous message.”
3 Under pressure, Leslie Brinkman is not team focused. Leslie does not allow time for staff collaboration. Staff work upwards of 12 hours per day and are expected to be available by Blackberry ’24/7′. 4 Analysts describe the work environment as stressful noting that Leslie puts undue pressure on them and frequently expresses her disappointment in a blunt, confrontational manner. An analyst noted, “I was feeling increasingly burdened… and I wasn’t sure [Leslie] would be sympathetic.”
5 Leslie admits that morale is low and that it isn’t the team oriented atmosphere she had dreamed about when she created the firm.6 Recommendation Leslie needs to learn to identify her stress triggers and modify her behavior in those situations to ensure her actions align with her core values. If successful, the benefits will be two fold: (a) Leslie will benefit by becoming a positive role model for her staff; and (b) Versutia Capital will benefit by increased team cohesion.
1Langton, N. & S. Robbins. “Values, Attitudes and Their Effect in the Workplace.” In Fundamentals of Organizational Behaviour, 3rd Canadian ed., (Pearson Prentice Hall. 2007), p.10. 2 Julie Battilana and Rob Kaplan “Leslie Brinkman at Versutia Capital”,HBS No. 9-407-089, (Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing, Rev: July 23, 2007), p.10. 3 Ibid.,p.8. 4 Ibid.,p.8. 5 Ibid.,p.10. 6 Ibid.,p.11.
Action Steps Leslie must take responsibility, reflect and get help in order to successfully learn to identify her stress triggers and modify her behavior under pressure, so her actions reflect her core values. Primarily, Leslie must take responsibility. Leslie needs to immediately acknowledge that her leadership is the root cause of the dysfunction manifesting in the workplace. Secondly, Leslie must reflect. Leslie needs to take one week off of work (away from the office) to step back and gain perspective on her behavior, and the effect her leadership style is having on office dynamics. 7 Finally, Leslie must get help. Leslie does not have the skills to address this problem on her own as demonstrated by the array of questions she has come up with and the corresponding lack of answers.
8 Leslie needs to hire an executive coach to meet with her when she returns from her week long break, to help her map out what her specific stress triggers are, and how she can effectively deal with them. Conclusion Leslie Brinkman’s leadership under pressure does not match the core values of her organization. She must learn to identify her stress triggers and modify her behavior in those situations to ensure her actions align with her core values. If Leslie is able to do that by taking responsibility, reflecting, and getting help it will result in tangible benefits to her and her company.
Battilana, J. and Rob Kaplan “Leslie Brinkman at Versutia Capital”, HBS No. 9-407-089, Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing, Rev: July 23, 2007.
Langton, N. & S. Robbins. “Values, Attitudes and Their Effect in the Workplace.” In
Fundamentals of Organizational Behaviour, 3rd Canadian ed. Pearson Prentice