Who Brought Bernadine Healy Down? describe the various cross-pressures and multiple responsibilities that Healy faced. Why do these persisting cross-pressures and responsibilities make it so difficult to frame a clear, consistent motivational system in government or nonprofits?
In 1991 Dr. Bernadine Healy took over as president of the Red Cross from Elizabeth Dole. Dr. Healy style of leadership was more like that of an entrepreneur rather than a bureaucrat. She was encouraging of change, shrewd in detecting inefficiencies and decisive in her actions.
She did not see the need to build consensus, assuming an allegiance on the part of others to her goals. The board and old guard of the Red Cross expected Healy to adjust her head-on style to their softer approach, to work within their structure. This made Dr. Healy attempts of changing the Red Crosses Culture as well as their system of operating a very daunting task. While Healy and the Red Cross were both striving for the same goal, serving the public good, their methods and expectations were vastly divergent.
When Healy uncovered significant fraud in one of her Jersey City, N.J. chapters, she immediately turned it over to the local prosecutor’s office, which indicted the director and bookkeeper for stealing funds from the Red Cross. However, instead of praising Healy, several board members criticized her for being “too tough” in Jersey City. Healy hard charged style was effective but made governors of the Red Cross very uncomfortable. Healy was original chosen to lead the Red Cross because she brought to the table a strong background in efficiently managing large, complex organizations.
As its leader, however, Healy neglected to make room for the Red Cross operationalized institutional values; she misjudged their tenacity and failed to adjust her leadership style to the organizational culture.
As a result, she was unable to maintain a legitimate authority and enact her vision of the organization’s greatness. Within two years, she was forced to resign, because many of the board members disliked her strong political views. After a governor’s vote on the confidence in her leadership went 6 in favor of Healy and 27 against her on October 23rd, Healy publicly announced her resignation as president of the Red Cross three days later.