Case Study #2: A Tale of Two CEO's

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In a minimum of 350 words to the attached case study discussing what contributed to the success and failure of CEOs Mary Barra and Marissa Meyer, respectively.

Women in Leadership Case Study: A Tale of Two CEOs

One of the recurring themes in our current society is that of women’s role in leadership. In a society that is composed of many successful, powerful women, why aren’t more in a high level of leadership? How do they compare to their male counterparts? What are the differences in leadership styles when comparing men to women? And, what defines the success of a woman in a leadership position?

 

The following case study compares two CEOs of Fortune 500 companies- Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors and Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo. Each were included on the Forbes 2016 World’s 100 Most Powerful Women with Barra ranking at 5 and Mayer 55. Some of the factors that will be compared between these two women are their level of education, how they responded to adversity, their communication style, and what type of leadership style they used. Each of these women were hired at a time when their respective companies were facing a crisis-one was able to succeed while the other failed.

 

Considered by many to be one of the most successful female CEO’s is Mary Barra. Mary began her tenure with GM as an intern and went on to use her electrical engineering and MBA degrees to move up the ladder serving as General Director of Internal Communications and Senior Vice President of Global Product Development. Barra was hired as CEO of General Motors in 2013 after working her way through the ranks since the age of 18. In March of 2014, she was faced with addressing the mass recall of GM vehicles that resulted in the deaths of 32 people. Instead of shrinking or deflecting from this enormous scrutiny, she tackled it head on. Appearing in front of Congress, she described the situation as disturbing and that GM owed a legal obligation to the families of each of the victims. As a woman in a predominately male environment, she never let on that this was the case. Instead, her focus centered on communication with all stake holders and building relationship within and outside of the company. Mary Barra’s style of leadership is transformational in nature. Transformational leaders are able to create a vision within an adverse situation and work as part of a team to reach a goal. Barra exhibits the best of both feminine and masculine qualities. She exemplifies the traditionally viewed feminine qualities of communication and a high level of emotional intelligence; while incorporating, the more masculine viewed traits of facing adversity head on while fighting for what she believes in without concern for what people may think. Mary Barra is still at the helm of GM and viewed to be one of the most successful CEOs of the company’s history. She currently ranks as the 53rd Most Powerful People in 2018 according to Forbes.

 

On the flip side of the coin is Marissa Mayer. She began her career after receiving her computer science degree from Stanford by serving as Google’s 20th employee. She stayed with Google for 13 years while it grew into the juggernaut that we know today. Mayer was the youngest Fortune 500 CEO, male or female, to ever be hired at the age of 37 in 2012. Yahoo hired her in an effort to turn the company around. Her platform to save Yahoo from disaster was to reduce bureaucracy, remove jams, and streamline processes. Meyer’s initial focus and goal was to make Yahoo the best place to work. One of the first changes she made to the company was requiring all employees to work at the Yahoo offices. Up until this point many worked from home, this change was viewed by employees as placing blame on them and that all of the company’s problems would be resolved once they returned to work. This was not the case. In 2016, Yahoo was involved in one of the largest cyber security breaches with about 500 million accounts being hacked. Mayer avoided the media and answering questions about what the company was doing to address the breach. She was also viewed as failing to recognize that Yahoo was at fault or taking ownership of the fallout. Additionally, she commented in an interview when asked if she read articles discussing her tenure as CEO and how she was viewed by the public by saying, “I don’t read it.” Marissa Mayer’s style of leadership is more transactional in nature. Transactional leaders focus more on supervision, performance, and organization while motivating with rewards and punishments. Mayer was unable to make use of emotional intelligence and build relationships with those that work for her and the public. Likewise, she has a more traditional feminine quality of dealing with conflict-avoidance. Yahoo has recently been bought out be Verizon and Mayer was forced to resign her position as CEO.

 

Consider how these two women compare to each other and respond to the following questions with a 350-word response.

 

Are there lessons to be taken away from this comparison that can be used within our day to day lives? How can future leaders, male and female, learn from these two women? What stood out to you while reading this case study and what are your take aways moving forward within your respective fields of study?

 

Source: Newcomb, Christine, "Women in Leadership: A Comparative Case Study on Successful Leadership" (2017). Honors College Theses. 29. h p://scholarworks.umb.edu/honors_theses/29