Accessibility of a Leader

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⦁ Management Decision

In this case, you are asked to consider how accessible a leader should be. Thanks to the Internet and smartphones, company leaders can be reached all over the world at almost any time of day. While this might seem to be a more efficient way of management, it may actually hinder leaders’ effectiveness.

⦁ Setting It Up
“Do you ever wish you could just get rid of your cell phone?”

⦁ To Cell or Not To Cell

It’s a bright Tuesday morning, and you’re sitting in a rather exciting meeting in which your company’s marketing team will present the new fall campaign. It’s been an exciting time since you took over as CEO of this small electronics firm, and everyone is anticipating that the new product line-up that the company has been working on will bring new levels of success.

Just as the team is about to start presenting their thoughts on how to market the new products, your phone rings; it’s Karen from distribution, asking whether you have five minutes to talk about truck maintenance. “No,” you tell her, “I’m in a meeting.” As you apologize for the interruption, your phone rings again; it’s your assistant, and he wants to know when you can schedule a meeting with the president of a subcontractor. A few minutes after that, Gary from HR calls and asks when the new benefits package will be approved. After that you get calls from the mailroom, the president of the electricians’ union, your chief accountant, and your teenage son, asking whether he can drive the car to school. And in between all of those calls, your phone has been buzzing nonstop with emails.

With all of these interruptions, a presentation that should have taken 30 minutes took more than two hours, and this isn’t the first time something like this has happened either. Day and night, it seems, you’re getting bombarded by phone calls and text messages and emails, almost to the point that you can’t get any real work done. As you trudge back to your office, you remark to your assistant, “Maybe I should just get rid of this phone.” And he says, “Maybe you should.”

He mentions that he just saw a magazine article about executives who don’t use cell phones, even high-powered people like Warren Buffett, Mikhail Prokhorov (owner of the NBA team New Jersey Nets), and Tavis Smiley, a TV and radio host. One manager quoted in the article says that he got rid of his cell phone to increase his efficiency. With no cell phone, he could focus on one meeting at a time and give exclusive attention to whomever he was talking to. Tavis Smiley says that without a cell phone, employees of his company actually get more conversation time with him than before.

So maybe this is the solution to your problems: Without a cell phone, there would be no more interrupted meetings, no more urgent calls about stuff that isn’t really urgent, no more 30-minute appointments that stretch to two hours. When you ask your managers and employees, however, there’s a high level of anxiety. Will you be accessible at all? What if there is a real emergency?

“America’s Most Exclusive Club” Bloomberg BusinessWeek, 6 Aug 2010.

⦁ Questions:

1. Do you believe that the CEO of a company can effectively do his or her job of leading without being always accessible? If so, please elaborate on how it could be done, and the elements that would need to be present to pull it off.

If you, as the CEO, were to get rid of your phone, how would you ensure that lines of communication remain open? Elaborate on one-on-one and company-wide communication options, currently used. For more information on Accessibility of a Leader see this:

Accessibility of a Leader

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