Biblical Leadership Case Study
The following analysis is adapted from a fictional case study in my personal academic coursework. It is Any similarities to actual persons, organizations, or situations are coincidental and unintentional.
A Study in Leadership at Boston Bank
Ralph Emerson’s career at Boston Bank started strong, peaked with his promotion to assistant manager, and ended following his failure to improve in this role. This paper evaluates Ralph’s supervisor’s leadership interactions with him.
The Golden Years
Ralph demonstrated much potential at first. He excelled at customer service which led to an early promotion. He kept this role for nearly a decade with no indicated issues. Benson et al. find that the reasons employees commit to their employers vary by generation. Baby Boomers tend to stay with a company “for life” while Generation Xers tend to commit based on career development satisfaction. Ralph remaining with the bank for so long with minimal development indicates a tendency to stay “for life” like the Baby Boomers.
It is surprising, considering Ralph’s commitment, discipline, and performance, that his supervisor Ellen had reservations about promoting him when he expressed interest in becoming the assistant manager. Despite Ellen’s misgivings, she found the lack of qualified alternatives persuasive enough to promote Ralph.
A Secular Perspective
From a secular perspective, this was a seemingly neutral decision, with no compelling case for or against promoting Ralph. However, it gradually moved Ralph from success to failure. Secularly, this was an acceptable decision with an unfortunate outcome.
However, there are several passages in the Bible, particularly in Proverbs, which might have caused Ellen to pause before making the decision to promote Ralph. Proverbs 11:14 (NKJV) warns that “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Ellen did not seek any outside assistance when deciding to promote Ralph. Instead, she trusted in her own judgment—the way that seemed right to her. Proverbs 16:25 says that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Ellen’s decision proved deadly for Ralph’s career.
Finally, Proverbs 19:2 states that “…it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge, and he sins who hastens with his feet.” Ellen had misgivings about promoting Ralph, but did not investigate them further or seek counsel outside of herself. Instead, she made a rushed decision to fill the position and ultimately moved Ralph from his successful role to a problematic one. From God’s perspective, Ellen should have taken more time to make this decision and asked for advice. She would have been better off leaving the position vacant. Instead, her haste and lack of counsel led to two vacancies instead of one.
The Downward Spiral
As Ralph started his new role, Ellen clearly communicated that he needed to improve in his “attention to detail, coaching and mentoring employees under his leadership, and treating employees as favorably as he treated customers” to succeed. Ralph began well, but could not sustain this success over time.
When Ralph’s problems surfaced, they were in the areas Ellen had already identified. His missed deadlines and reporting errors indicated poor attention to detail and he also received complaints of what Potipiroon and Ford termed “supervisory incivility—a less intense form of supervisor aggression… …characterized by rudeness and a lack of regard for others.” Beginning with Ralph’s promotion, he underwent four cycles of meeting with Ellen, a season of success, and the resurfacing of the same problems. The first cycle began with Ralph’s promotion, the second with a conversation, the third with a verbal warning, and the fourth with a written warning which led to his termination.
The repetition of Ralph’s cycle is reminiscent of Jesus’ metaphor of only cleaning the outside of dishes in Matthew 23:25-26. Ralph could temporarily meet expectations, but he never “cleaned the inside.” Throughout his entire 13-year career with Boston Bank, Ralph never grew as an employee. After he started at the bank, he quickly received a promotion to a role commensurate with his skills, but never grew to succeed beyond that position.
A Secular Perspective
While Ralph bears some responsibility for his stagnancy, Ellen should have actively coached him to help him succeed. Weer et al. stated that “managerial responsibilities… …include cultivating subordinate competencies.” Raza et al.added that “job performance is the most important outcome of managerial coaching” and found that “managerial coaching is… …positively related to employee[s] thriving at work.” Ellen should have suggested specific development programs for Ralph during his performance assessment in accordance with Siti et al.’s advice, but she never did. Ellen and Ralph had the same conversation at least 5 times between his promotion and termination. As a leader, she should have helped him improve or transition back to a role where he could succeed. This was a failure of leadership.
Thankfully, God does not tell humanity about their shortcomings and then abandon them to solve those problems without His assistance. Instead, He “…devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him” (2 Samuel 14:14). The greatest example of this is “…God [demonstrating] His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 1 John 4:11 states that “…if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Therefore, from God’s perspective, in response to His great love which moved Christ to die on Ellen’s behalf, Ellen should love Ralph enough to help him succeed by coaching him to improvement or transferring him to a position for which he is better suited. This is God’s heart on the matter.
Benson, J., Brown, M., Glennie, M., O’Donnell, M., & O’Keefe, P. (2018). The generational “exchange” rate: How generations convert career development satisfaction into organisational commitment or neglect of work. Human Resource Management Journal, 28(4), 524-539. https://doi.org/10.1111/1748-8583.12198
Holy Bible, New King James Version. (2020). Thomas Nelson (Original work published 1982).
Potipiroon, W. & Ford, M. T. (2019), Relational costs of status: Can the relationship between supervisor incivility, perceived support, and follower outcomes be exacerbated?. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 92, 873-896. https://doi.org/10.1111/joop.12263
Raza, B., Ali, M., Ahmed, S., & Moueed, A. (2017). Impact of managerial coaching on employee performance and organizational citizenship behavior: Intervening role of thriving at work. Pakistan Journal of Commerce and Social Sciences, 11(3), 790-813.
Raza, B., Moueed, A., & Ali, M. (2018). Impact of managerial coaching on employee thriving at work: The moderating role of perception of organizational politics. Journal of Business Strategies, 18(1), 87.
Siti, A. O., Harmein, N., Isfenti, S. (2018). The influence of emotional intelligence on the performance of health department officers of Deli Serdang Regency. Junior Scientific Researcher, 4(2), 107-125.
Weer, C. H., DiRenzo, M. S., & Shipper, F. M. (2016). A holistic view of employee coaching: Longitudinal investigation of the impact of facilitative and pressure-based coaching on team effectiveness. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 52(2), 187–214. https://doi.org/10.1177/0021886315594007