Julia is the director of the municipal bond group of a financial services firm. Julia has four managers reporting to her, each of whom supervises a unit of the group: retail sales, institutional sales, customer service, and internal administration.
Laura, the branch director and company vice president, heard rumblings that the group was not receiving enough supervision, so she decided to investigate. During a dinner meeting requested by Laura, she asked Julia about her approach to leading the group. Julia replied:
“I am leading my four managers as if they are all responsible professionals. I believe in management by exception.Unless I am aware of a problem, I am hesitant to get involved in how my managers conduct their work. Don’t forget that as the head of the municipal bond group, I have some responsibility for spending time with major customers as well as meeting with you and other senior executives. I do hold a weekly meeting, and conduct my annual performance reviews asrequired.”
Laura thanked Julia for having attended the dinner, and said that the meeting was informative. With Julia’s permission, Laura said that she would be visiting the municipal bond group to have a few casual conversations withthe four managers.
When asked about Julia’s leadership, the first manager said his nickname for Julia was Macro Julia; instead of being a micromanager, shewent to the other extreme and was a micromanager who had minimal contact with the group. He added that at times Julia didn’t seem to evencare what was happening. The manager said, “I recently asked Julia’s advice about finding a good contact who could introduce me to the pension fund manager of a hospital. Julia told me that a big part of my job was to develop contacts on my own.”
The second manager Laura spoke to saidthat she enjoyed working with Julia because she was a nice person who didn’t get in her hair. “I don’t need a boss to remind me to attain my goals or get my work done on time.
A little smile of encouragement here and there is all I need,” the manager said.The third manager said to Laura, “I thinkJulia would be a great manager for me a fewyears down the road. But right now, I do not want to feel so much on my own. Julia is a talented person who I could learn from. Yet she is more involved with customers and higher-level management than she is with hermanagers. I’m new in the field, so I could use more of a coaching style of manager.”
The fourth manager said, “I remember meeting Julia a few times, but I don’t remembermuch about her. You said she is my manager? I don’t care if my comments get back to her, because I’m joining a competitor next month.”
- To what extent has Julia chosen the right approach to leading the managers in her unit of the financial services firm?
- What advice can you offer Julia to be a more effective leader?
- What advice can you offer Laura to help Julia be a more effective leader?
Explain whether you think Laura was justified in asking Julia’s direct reports about Julia’s approach to leadership.