Hewlett Packard is known as one of the most respected companies because of its consistent effort to produce innovative and high-quality products for its consumers. Hewlett Packard famously known as HP and is an American publicly listed corporation that manufactures products within the information technology industry the information technology industry consists of I.T services, consulting, computer hardware, and systems together with software. HP was founded back in 1939 by Bill Hewlett and David Packard in Pato Alto California U.S.A. Surprisingly the company came from a humble beginning of being started inside a one-car garage with a startup capital of $500. Today HP operates in almost all countries in the world by selling the highest quality of innovative products which include printers, scanners, servers, networking apparatus, television parts, computer monitors, customized software, digital cameras, laptops, PCs and optical lenses. Being a multinational company it is clear that HP requires a very large human workforce and therefore HP has over 310,000 employees. With such a huge and diversified workforce the best leadership practices must be implemented to ensure the smooth and efficient running of the organization.
HP has put in place a growth and expansion strategy whereby the leadership has embarked on strategic alliances and acquisition of other companies such as Compaq, Snapfish, Pro Curve, Palm Inc and so forth. In the year 2009 HP made revenue of $115 billion and a profit of $8billion. $ 40 billion that HP made in the same year came from the sale of services only. Therefore HP became the first I.T Company to report revenues that were over $100 billion and in turn, HP maintained its position as the world’s leader in manufacturing printers and computer hardware as reported by IDC& Gartner. HP has its headquarters in Pato Alto California and other operation facilities in Huston Texas, Geneva in Switzerland, Singapore in Asia, Boise, Idaho, Roseville, and San Diego in the United States, and other facilities in various locations around the United Kingdom.
HP’S Organization structure revolves around seven business segments which are: corporate investments, HP services is a division that deals with the sale of expert services such as consultation and systems maintenance, HP procurve is another segment that is now known as the hp networking division, is responsible for producing line network switches and wireless access points and routers. Another business segment is HP software and solutions are responsible for creating software for individual and corporate use and HP personal systems group (PSG) which is responsible for creating the worlds’ best personal computers and other related computer accessories. HP financial services is a business segment that assists individuals and corporate to get financing for their purchases, lastly HP imaging and printing group(IPG) this division of the business is responsible for coming up with the best printers and scanners for individuals and corporate consumers. Furthermore, there is an existence of functional areas such as research and development, and marketing that come together to ensure the success of HP’s business segments. With such many large divisions, bureaucracy is bound to rise because protocol must be followed to ensure that end products are of high quality therefore good leadership is very important (Bass1985).
I recently had the opportunity to meet with Hewlett Packard’s customer care manager in California who leads a team of expert customer service staff who assists the customers of HP by offering them solutions to their various needs. Many customers call to ask complex and simple questions that are related to HP and its products, the questions range from simple product basics to more technical issues. The customer service representatives go ahead to answer their queries and offer them guidelines to follow over the phone, email, and if the need arises they send out technicians or give the customers contacts of other HP dealers.
Leadership is a process of inspiring people to perform their functions diligently to achieve organizational goals (Tichy & Devanna1986). The customer service manager from California is a leader who insists that employees need not be forced to do their work using threats and coercion but instead, a passion should be developed inside e them the kind of passion that makes an employee miss working when at home and at the same time come up with innovative techniques by going out of their way to offer customers with top-class solutions without the intervention of their superiors.
After serving HP for over 20 years the now customer service manager believes that experience is the best teacher and that he has seen and learned a lot as far as leadership is concerned and therefore he tries to implement a leadership style that is at the same time task and people-oriented. He strongly believes that results within the workplace will be optimum if a consultative style of leadership is used. He believes that this type of leadership is participative and therefore calls all staff to come together and be part of the decision-making process but the last word remains with the leader.
Since every man/woman has an ego however how small or tiny it is according to Maslow’s theory people will feel fulfilled and appreciated if they feel like part of the process and therefore this is why he decides to use his employees in the process of formulating the best ideas and procedures of coming up with programs (Adair, 1973). The customer care manager strongly opposes bureaucratic and autocratic styles of leadership saying the world’s culture has moved out of dictatorship and with a complex dynamic environment nothing is within the book. It is with the same strength he goes ahead to oppose the laissez-faire hands-off style of leadership saying that leaders must involve themselves with employee duties to ensure that nothing goes wrong. Today’s business environment commands responsibility and accountability and therefore the hands of the style of leadership would definitely backfire.
Employees must be in a comfortable working environment for them to deliver, it is not right for employees to exist in a harsh environment that makes them feel intimidated and full of fear. The manager believes that a consultative and democratic environment calls for mutual respect and the existence of a symbiotic relationship between the organization, leadership and the employees. The manager believes that a democratic environment calls for mutual respect and the existence of a symbiotic relationship between the organization, leadership and the employees.
Qualities, Skills, and Characteristics
For a leader to be effective and use whatever leadership style successfully to bring about organizational change good traits and relevant skills are vital (Blake, &. Mouton1964). The customer care service manager of California exhibited the following skills that had enabled him along the years to enable his staff lead in providing excellent customer service through teamwork and individual effort.
Technical skills– it is clear that the manager had all the skills that were related to the product itself. This includes specification of the equipment, how the product works, issues to do with installation and servicing of equipment, and how the different technologies that the product use. The manager could clearly explain these to consumers and urged all his staff to have all technical knowledge memorized.
Interpersonal skills-People skills are very important, customer service is a very social and interactive process. Therefore it calls for a manager to be a good speaker and communicator. The customer service manager was very good as far as interacting with people who consist of customers and employees and expressing himself clearly.
Analytical skills-The manager made it clear that sometimes decisions must be made quickly by choosing among various alternatives. It was therefore his role to analyze the probable outcome and results of his choices and pick out the best decision.
Time management skills– with many deadlines to meet and queues of customers waiting online the manager has implemented a timer management policy that aims to deliver services within a given time frame. This goes ahead to show that time management is among the skills that the customer service manager has.
Apart from the above skills, it became clear during the interview that the customer service manager exhibited the following qualities and characteristics: he was inspiring, therefore, was able to motivate his employees to work with little supervision or even in his absence, he was very competent and intelligent because he substantiated his arguments and explanations with facts and rationality. He was also assertive but not aggressive stating to his staff his expectations and goals and how he expected them to be fulfilled by the employees under his leadership, he was also magnanimous giving credit and congratulating when did well. Creativity and innovativeness are some of this manager’s qualities because he encourages his employees to think out of the box and he has come up with programs that maximize the customer experience by reducing the total time taken to queue.
Motivation and empowerment strategies
The manager claimed Centralization of power results in bureaucracy and demonization of employees. He when there is only one center of power in an organization it can lead to inefficiencies and slow down service delivery. Employees may feel unutilized and unappreciated (Grint, 2000).
Therefore the manager strongly believes that any organizational leader should come up with strategies that he/she can use to empower its employees. There are far more dangers that can arise if a leader decides to be selfish and not delegate some responsibility to his/her employees.these are some of the strategies that he uses to empower his customer service branch in California they include:
- Delegation of authority and providing information for decision making– as a manager he strongly believes that there is no need for decision making to be done by only one individual. Therefore, he has gone ahead and set a guideline for which his staff at the HP customer service center can use to make decisions. As a leader, he understands that customers are very dynamic and different and therefore to solve problems of customers quickly his staff must be given authority to make some quick decisions that are of benefit to the organization.
- Providing frequent feedback-communication is very important. Many are times which employees need to get communication from the top management regarding the company. Employees may also need information regarding their performance. As a leader, the manager has gone forth to ensure that he gives regular feedback to the employees.
- Sharing leadership vision- the leader believes that one cannot follow others blindly and that therefore the principle of disclosure must apply. Therefore, he makes sure that he shares the overall vision, mission, goals, and objectives of HP as a corporate entity with them. This way employees work with a given target in their mind.
- Rewarding and recognizing employees– when employees go out of their way to provide excellent services using creative and innovative techniques as a leader and manager in HP he strongly believes that they should be appreciated, Therefore he has gone to recommend several employees for bonuses and even awards.
- Coaching and mentorship and training- with the rapid changes that take place frequently in the corporate world and influences employee performance the leader believes that it is a prerequisite that all employees are mentored and trained to get the necessary skills that will go into p[providing good services to consumers.
- Providing guidelines-boundaries are the same as guidelines as a leader and a manager believes that guidelines are like a light in a dark path and therefore by providing employees with clear guidelines of the do’s and don’ts an organization is able to empower its employees. Without guidelines, the customer service representatives may end up crossing the line when dealing with consumers.
- Trust– As a leader, the HP manager must show the employees that he trusts them to make the right decisions and that he believes they are capable of handling problems to come up with solutions that will be of benefit to the organization. It is by giving them space and respect that the employees feel empowered.
Role of a leader in organizational change
“Change is neither sought after nor welcomed. It is disruptive and intrusive” (Strebel p.33).Organizational change is inevitable sometimes change of management, strategy, technology and ownership may occur it is the duty of the leadership to make the process of change be smooth in such a way that organizational functioning is not affected. According to ( Deal and Kennedy 55) go ahead to explain that employees always feel that change threatens an organization’s culture and therefore this is why the offer resistance to change, quite often a leader who acts as a champion must come through to help them embrace and accept change.
The leader explains that in his period in HP as a manager he has seen various C.E.O’S starting from Carly Fiona to Mark Hurd who once upon taking leadership initiated change. Even when HP merged with Compaq some rapids changes had to be made. By giving me a clear example of the recent recession and how it informed the organization to change e how it spent its money with aim of trying to save it is clear how change must be countered with or without will. As a leader in customer care, the leader was forced to play the following roles to ensure that a smooth transition occurred and change was embraced (Bove & Hede 2001).
The HP leader who is a customer care manager believes that leadership plays a big role in the process of change and they include:
- Championing for change– As an organization leader when the leader was present in HP and the topmost management changed strategies the manager says that he acted as a champion for the change by strongly advocating for change and enthusiast telling all those who were under his authority to embrace the change and believe that change is good and therefore, he believes that any leader in his position should do the same. He believes that the human spirit always looks for a hero to follow and when they find one, they will not hesitate to follow him to a path that has a lot of promise.
- Supervising change- according to the customer care manager it is the role of a manager to be present when Change is taking place so that he/she can guide employees and inspire them to implement change with a high degree of accuracy. In case anything goes wrong the leader has to correct this and make the employees revert to the right path that is in accordance with the change. Without leadership during change employees can be like a ship without a captain that may end up going off course.
- Mobilizing commitment- The leader believes that it is important to know that employees are on board as far as accepting change is concerned without their explicit commitment then some employees may deliberately sabotage the organization’s strategy. Therefore a leader should come up with ways of convincing employees to accept and embrace change.
- Shaping the vision-The leader stated that most of the time employees may reject change because they lack vision therefore it becomes the role of the leader to try and shape their vision during the process of change in the organization. It is through meetings and capacity buildings that a leader can communicate with employees and therefore get the chance of shaping their vision in accordance with the overall organizational change process.
Strategies of handling resistance to change
The manager clearly stated that employees often resist change or are neutral to organizational change because employees often feel that they may lose Control or Power (either formal or informal power), sometimes employees imagine if a change occurs the organization may become unpredictable, while others fear that change may render them jobless therefore self-interests, misapprehension, low tolerance of change and different assessments of the same situation may result in rejection of change. Therefore, the leaders have to come up, with the strategy of making employees accept the change (Hersey & Blanchard 1977). Being a leader and a manager, he stated that the following strategies could be followed.
- Education and coaching- Employees consider ambiguity and lack of information and skills that are involved with change as a threat to their existing corporate culture and therefore without the right knowledge that applies to the change they will continue to resist change. Therefore by training and coaching them they will accept the change sooner or later.
- Participation and involvement– when the employees are involved in the process of bringing about change then it is most likely true that they will accept change because they believe that they were the ones who triggered the change.
- Negotiation and agreement – sometimes the majority of the employees resist the change and may deliberately sabotage it is therefore important that the leadership/management come together and negotiate with the employees so that they accept change. This may often involve offering certain groups incentives to accept the change.
- Facilitation and support-When employees find change difficult then management comes up with different avenues such as counseling programs and offers special assistance to employees to make them accept change.
- Coercion-When change is critical and considered as a moving emergency to stop bleeding within the organization then managers have no choice but to use force to make their employees accept change. Sometimes this technique is dangerous and can have an effect on the loyalty and motivation of employees.
Methods that use force to engage employees may not bring out the optimal performance. It is therefore advisable to use good techniques that call for employee involvement without coercion. When employees are involved in the process of bringing about the change they, in turn, appreciate the change and feel obligated to stick by it and make the change succeed.
Many schools of thought try to examine leadership, starting from great man theories, trait theories, behaviorist theories, situational leadership theories, contingency theories, transactional theories, and transformational theories which all try to explain what a good leader is all about many of these theories have been discredited and considered to have great shortcomings.
The problem with classical leadership models is that they look at the issue of leadership as if it is a black and white picture (Tannenbaum & Schmidt’s 1958). Instead of saying that leaders were either autocratic or bureaucratic like the classical theorists Tannenbaum & Schmidt went ahead to suggest that leadership styles can be defined by a continuum which at one end is totally autocratic and in the other end is democratic. One end, therefore, doesn’t allow for subordinate participation while the other end allows subordinate participation. Therefore a leader can either be Autocratic thereby making decisions implementing them and not allowing them to question his/her decisions in other words he/she tells them to do something. The second choice is for the leader is to be persuasive whereby the leader takes the decision without involving the group but goes ahead to convince the group to see his/her way in other words he/she sells the idea to them. The third style is a consultative style where a leader confers to a group accepts their ideas but the final decision remains with him/her. The final choice of style is democratic where the leader lays the problem before the employees to discuss and the decision will emerge from the group.
According to the Hersey-Blanchard model of leadership, a leader can either be of directive behavior or supportive behavior depending on his/her subordinates. The kind of tasks and the relationship behavior between the leader and the subordinates go ahead to decide what kind of leadership style he will employ. If follower roles are clearly defined and communicated and close supervision is needed the leader would assume a directive behavior but if the task calls for a lot of interaction and two-way communication then he/she plays a supportive role.
On The Other Hand, Fiedler (1967) suggests that there is no one particular leadership style that is considered perfect but a leader should go forward and choose a leadership style that best fits the situation at hand. Depending on the situation a leader can either be task-oriented or relationship-oriented depending on the situation and the environmental variables that are involved.
According to Adair’s action-centered leadership model, an action-centered leader must be able to get his/her job done through a work team and relationships with fellow managers and his/her employees (Adair’s 1973). For a manager to successfully carry out his/her functions it is a must that the manager must understand variables involved with the tasks ‘the individual employees and the group which is involved in performing a given task
To Burns (1978), author of transformational leadership theory, transformational leadership “is a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts, Followers into leaders and may convert leaders into moral agents”. Such leaders try to empower their subordinates intellectually, Burns considers this type of leadership to be noble and charismatic which he terms heroic and executive/business leadership that transforms, expands the vision of employees.
The Link between the Theories and the Leader
Being a leader in the customer service department in California the manager’s leadership style is clear, modern and contemporary, and not classical. By being a skilled, talented, and experience leader the manager has clearly shown that he understands the importance of employee involvement in decision making and performance (Tichy &Devanna.1986). The manager has shown that he ensures that all employees can make decisions and has given them guidelines on how to do so, this is in line with the above theories which advocate for a mere consultative democratic style of leadership just as advised by Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s (1958).
Furthermore, by mentoring and coaching employees the leader seems to condone selfishness monopolization of skill and knowledge just as Burns (1978) advocates for this in his transformational theory. By going ahead the extra mile to inspire and create a culture of excellence and the love of one’s work shows that he is a transformational type of leader. By choosing to play both a supportive role or a directive role just as (Hersey & Blanchard 1977) argue when the need arises depending on the subordinates the relationships and environment the leader has shown the kind of flexibility he has as far as leadership is concerned.
HP is an organization known to have a culture of innovation and creativity as far as producing products and catering for consumer needs are concerned. HP today values its staff knowing that they are the key to their success. With exemplary customer care, HP leadership is known to encourage their staff to come up with effective techniques that aim at solving consumer problems as a team, thereby building a strong group of top-class employees by finding strengths through their diversity (Belbin, 1993). The leadership style employed by the customer service manager is therefore good because it gives a degree of autonomy and flexibility that is good when dealing with customers who are highly volatile and unpredictable.
By not being bureaucratic/autocratic in the style of leadership the manager motivates the employees by giving them more options and a broader guideline to work within coming up with solutions. But as a leader the manager should know that an excessively democratic type of leadership can lead to conflicts and an increase in office politics with every member of the team trying to stamp his authority and push his/her idea therefore a leader should always put systems that will make sure his employees maintain high levels discipline and objectivity (Grint, 2000)
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