Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Mail from the Director

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Mail from the Director

Article excerpt


The primary subject matter of this case concerns the attempt by the Director of a business school to influence his faculty members. The case has a difficulty level of four. The case is designed to be taught in one class hour and is expected to require about an hour of outside preparation by students.


This case describes the response from the faculty to an email from the new director of Indian School of Management (ISM). In the email the director refers to rumors that some of the faculty members are mistreating students' and threatens dire consequences. In response, a barrage of emails follows from various members of the faculty, expressing shock and anger at the tone of the director's email. As a result, whatever message the director intended to convey is totally forgotten. The case can be analyzed at two levels. At the surface level, the case is an example of hard downward influence and its consequences. From this perspective the case is suitable for discussing issues related to power and influence in undergraduate Organizational Behavior courses. At a deeper level, the case raises issues about the nature and role of leadership in academic settings where the leader is considered as first among equals' rather than a traditional boss. In this sense the case is suitable for analyzing issues of leadership in non-traditional contexts. As such, the case can be used in an advanced Organizational Behavior course. With the advent of knowledge work, more and more organizations are beginning to look like academic institutions. The traditional command and control approaches are no longer appropriate in such contexts. This case provides the context for discussing non-traditional approaches to leadership more appropriate to such organizations.

4. What was the director trying to do explicitly and implicitly?

Explicitly the director was warning the faculty members to treat the students with respect. Interestingly, while doing so, he was not being very respectable of the faculty. Implicitly the director was trying to establish his authority from his positional power base. In this he may have been trying to change the style of leadership from a collegial 'first among equals' style to a more authoritarian top-down style. …

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