Leadership and Influence Processes
Leadership and Influence Processes The Struggle for Power at Ramsey Electronics A vice president’s position is about to open up at Ramsey Electronics, maker of components for audio and visual equipment and computers. Whoever fills the position will be one of the four most powerful people in the company and may one day become its CEO. So the whole company has been watching the political skirmishes among the three leading candidates: Arnie Sander, Laura Prove, and Billy Evans. Arnie Sander, currently head of the research and development division, worked his way up through the engineering ranks.
Of the three candidates, he alone has a Ph.D. (in electrical engineering from MIT), and he is the acknowledged genius behind the company’s most innovative products. One of the current vice presidents—Harley Learner, himself an engineer— has been pushing hard for Sander’s case. Laura Prove spent five years on the road, earning a reputation as an outstanding salesperson of Ramsey products before coming to company headquarters and working her way up through the sales division. She knows only enough about what she calls the “guts” of Ramsey’s electronic parts to get by, but she is very good at selling them and at motivating the people who work for her. Frank Barnwood, another current vice president, has been filling the Chief’s ear with praise for Prove. Of the three candidates, Billy Evans is the youngest and has the least experience at Ramsey. Like the Chief, he has an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a very sharp mind for finances.
The Chief has credited him with turning the company’s financial situation around, although others in the company believe Sander’s products or Prove’s selling ability really deserves the credit. Evans has no particular champion among Ramsey’s top executives, but he is the only other handball player the Chief has located in the company, and the two play every Tuesday and Thursday after work. Learner and Barnwood have noticed that the company’s financial decisions often get made during the cooling-off period following a handball game. In the month preceding the Chief’s decision, the two vice presidents have been busy. Learner, head of a national engineering association, worked to have Sander win an achievement award from the association, and two weeks before the naming of the new vice president, he threw the most lavish banquet in the company’s history to announce the award. When introducing Sander, Learner made a long, impassioned speech detailing Sander’s accomplishments and heralding him as “the future of Ramsey Electronics.” Frank Barnwood has moved more slowly and subtly. The Chief had asked Barnwood
years before to keep him updated on “all these gripes by women and minorities and such,” and Barnwood did so by giving the Chief articles of particular interest. Recently he gave the Chief one from a psychology magazine about the cloning effect—the tendency of powerful executives to choose successors who are most like themselves. He also passed on to the Chief a Fortune article arguing that many American corporations are floundering because they are being run by financial people rather than by people who really know the company’s business. He also flooded bulletin boards and the Chief’s desk with news clippings about the value of having women and minorities at the top levels of a company. Billy Evans has seemed indifferent to the promotion. He spends his days on the phone and in front of the computer screen, reporting to the Chief every other week on the company’s latest financial successes—and never missing a handball game. Case Questions
1- Whom do you think the Chief will pick as the new vice president? Why?
2- Whom do you think should get the job? Why?
3- What role might impression management play in the decision?