The Tale of the Cocky Manager and the Floundering Leader

by Bharat Wakhlu
1 131 4.0/5

When the Master Craftsman (MC), Mr. Rao was promoted to be the Plant Head of India’s leading Automotive Company, it was well-received by the organization’s employees. The fact that he had risen to the position of MC fairly rapidly through the ranks, was also cited as proof of his competence.

For a Technician to become a Master Craftsman was uncommon, especially since only the very best made the cut. In any given year, not more than two – out of 20 or more finalists, chosen from a cohort of eligible candidates -would ever become MCs.

A few months into his role as an MC, word began to get around that Mr. Rao was somewhat impatient with his subordinates; as also with his peers from other departments. If any of his colleagues had a different perspective than that of Mr. Rao, he would raise his voice and usually get his way.

As Plant Head, Mr. Rao had meetings at 8:00 am every morning. This was in an era when video calls and meetings on-line were unavailable, so every person who reported into the Plant Head, had to be physically present in the large conference room. The morning meetings were anything but amicable. Mr. Rao demanded instantaneous answers to why problems had occurred at all. If his subordinates were unable to provide answers that he liked, they were asked to call their deputies and to get the answers before the end of the meeting. Increasingly, less and less information was shared with Mr. Rao.

Mr. Rao was becoming more imperious with each passing day, and seemed to have an opinion on anything and everything! His colleagues started to avoid him, and the junior associates – who bore the brunt of his fury every morning – would make excuses to avoid the morning meetings. Many senior managers were now used to getting a dressing down in front of all the other officers and managers in the room.

By now the General Manager sensed that something was grossly wrong. He called the Head of Industrial Engineering and asked him to conduct a root-cause analysis of why the plant wasn’t functioning well, and why employee morale too was down. When the analysis was submitted, there were three causes that were spelled out: 1. Fear of Mr. Rao was hindering free and open communications with all concerned. 2. There was a hurry to 'whitewash' and gloss-over plant problems, with no concern about rectifying what was wrong, to avoid a recurrence; and 3. The front-line technicians and engineers felt disempowered since they were given none of the resources they needed for their work.

The General Manager read the Analysis and decided to act. He relieved Mr. Rao of his duties as Plant Head and transferred him to the Engineering Research and Development Division.

Then he went about straightening out the lapses that had occurred.

Lessons Learned

  1. A person who may have the capabilities to excel in a certain position does not automatically have all the required competencies for higher positions. 
  2. In leadership roles, one has to demonstrate a range of leadership capabilities, to be effective. Creating trust, openness, and teamwork with all, and being receptive to diverse ideas and suggestions, are some of them.
  3. Problems that affect quality need to be rectified, permanently for long-term effectiveness. 
  4. Effective people, from whom we expect high performance and adherence to rigorous quality standards, need to be given the tools the resources and support, to function effectively. 
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14 July 2020 by Zankhana Broker
suggestion - could have explored the angle of an organization supporting the transition of the MC to Plant Head to have a 360degree view of the story. It is also important for organization to provide avenues in the making of a leader.