Case

The Division That Could (and the One that Couldn’t)

A vertically integrated business was struggling to understand a dramatic difference in the performance of its two primary divisions: one that was consistently profitable, and one that was not. We designed a study to utilize existing LVI 360 data for the top three layers of management in each division to determine if leadership could help explain the different results. (LVI data was available for all top leaders and VPs of each division, and for over 80% of the Director population.)

The analyses revealed two very different leadership cultures, which started at the top. The top leaders of the profitable division represented more diverse styles and greater versatility; top leaders of the unprofitable division represented less style diversity and versatility. In particular, there was very little enabling leadership at the top of the unprofitable division.

Additional analyses revealed a similar picture deeper in the respective organizations: leadership at the VP level of the profitable division was also more diverse and versatile, whereas in the unprofitable division it was predominantly forceful and operational with a notable lack of enabling leadership.

Further review of employee surveys and focus groups in the two divisions revealed the profitable division had a stronger pool of talent that was also more engaged. The environment of the unprofitable division was described as a “sweat shop” with a “my way or the highway” atmosphere. Its leadership ruled through command and control, had a bias for hiring “field generals” with a forceful-operational style to carry out their directives, and had failed to develop junior managers into better leaders. Consequently, it was limited in its ability to execute an otherwise promising strategy.

These results provided the basis for a reorganization with an emphasis on leadership versatility, complementary styles, and the development of lower-level managers to turn around the failing division.

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