Laura works as the Associate Director of a non-profit agency that provides assistance to families and children. She is the chief of the department that emphasizes on assessing the skill-building programs the agency offers families. She reports directly to the agency leadership. The agency has suffered from high staff turnover and has been careful during the hiring process as they have increased competition for federal grant funding. One staff personnel quit from the finance department, along with two directors, and three key research staff. Although Laura has a demanding schedule which involves frequent travel, she managers to supervise two managers that are each accountable for five staff members. Both of the managers, Kelly and Linda, have been appointed to their positions within the last six months.

Manager 1: Kelly has a detailed background in research. She manages the staff that delivers research support to other departments associated with behavioral health services to youth. Kelly is a very organized individual that supports her staff. However, she tends to see everything in black and white. Kelly’s latest research on therapeutic division’s services is highly valued by upper-level leadership. Kelly is driven, inspired, and anticipates the same from her staff.

Manager 2: Linda has a good background in evaluation and social science research. She manages the staff that works on various projects from within the organization. She is very supportive of her staff and is known as a problem solver. She is extremely experienced in the assessment of family services, organized, and capable of performing her job efficiently.

The managers are detecting that staff are becoming over-worked as everyone is accountable for increased responsibility caused by the high staff turnover. The staff has also stated that Laura’s “glass half-empty” conversation style leaves them feeling disappointed. Furthermore, Laura has not shared the budgets with her managers thereby making it hard for the managers to distribute work to staff. Laura also claims that she has not yet received enough information from the finance department to complete the budget. However, the finance department said they have already sent all of the available information to her.

As the staff becomes more distraught, the managers get frustrated as well. The managers feel like they are incapable of backing their staff or problem solving without key information such as the departmental budget (University of Minnesota).

Discussion Questions: 

1. How can Laura more effectually use both leadership and management skills in her role as an associate director? What combination of the two works the best in this setting?

A director can be a manager and a leader simultaneously. Since both managers are clearly capable and directly manage all of the department staff, Laura must focus on being a leader.

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Laura must delegate the managerial responsibilities to the two managers. Thus, building up the managers’ confidence and use their problem-solving skills to help their staff. It will also enable Laura to focus on building a greater sense of staff commitment to the company’s mission statement.

2. What steps are needed for building the staff’s confidence?

Due to the high turnover in the company and Laura’s negative conversation style, the staff is uncertain about their future in the company. The following steps are necessary for building the staff’s confidence in Laura:

  1. Giving managers greater independence and the necessary information to manage their staff.
  2. Communicating regularly with the staff about changes
  3. Supporting the staff in pursuing learning opportunities, professional development, and making time for them to do so
  4. Engaging in team building interactions and exercises
  5. Incentivizing high-performance
  6. Addressing Laura’s conversation style directly and explaining to her how it affects staff perceptions
  7. Involving staff in the hiring process
  8. Communicating with the staff directly and without reprisal, about the issues, they think cause high-turnover

3. What advice would you give Laura on enhancing her leadership skills and to the managers on developing their management skills?

Laura and the managers should complete a leadership or management assessment to determine their personal skills, learn how they can support their employees in the best way possible, and figure how they can work together to use each other’s strengths to run the department. The managers can use the style approach to structure their managerial styles as manager 1 uses a task-oriented approach whereas managers 2 demonstrates a relationship-oriented style. Laura may also focus on developing her leadership skills by building on her current strengths. Furthermore, Laura may want to revisit the responsibilities and roles of every position and how her division’s work supports the overall organizational mission. Aligning with the general mission and communication it to the staff can help enhance morale and provide clarity on the department’s direction and role.

4. Which leadership style do you think a leader would need to be effective in this scenario?

Various leadership methods can be appropriate for the position detailed in the scenario:

Skills: Focusses on the capability to resolve complex problems. The non-profit is experiencing various difficulties at the organizational level involving high-turnover.

Path goal: Encourages employees by defining goals, eradicating obstacles, clarifying path, and providing support. This kind of leadership can work well in boosting employee morale.

Transformational: Treats employees as complete human beings, consider standpoints and emotions. Creates motivation by providing a clear vision, acting as a social architect, developing trust, and building positive self-regard.


University of Minnesota. (2018). Leadership and Management Case Study #1. Retrieved April 06, 2018, from