Natalie Massenet’s Leadership Style and Strategies

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Introduction

Leadership is the definite role assigned to each and every manager. The most common and wrong presumption by managers is that since their job title puts them in a position of leadership, the individuals who work under them will automatically be subject to their every word. In actual sense, however, the title ‘manager’ is not necessarily directly linked to leadership. In order for effectiveness to be achieved in leadership, the person in charge must constantly ensure that his/her influence to the people subordinate to him/her is always positive and intended to achieve the unique goals of the institution. Furthermore, it has been proven that the leadership style adopted can make make people in managerial capacities either excellent or terrible leaders.

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This report is an analysis of the leadership style of Natalie Massenet, manager and founder Net-a-Porter. The leadership style of this manager shall be identified and then discussed in detail with an effort of isolating its strengths, and weaknesses. This report shall also draw parralels between Massenet’s leadership strategy with other leadership styles.

Net-a- porter: Leadership style

Natalie Massenet’s leadership style can generally be classified under transformational leadership. It is worth noting that every manager’s ambition should be to become the most effective leader that they possibly can. This is a learning process and once the optimum has been attained it can contribute to the general growth of the organization. Hesselbein and Cohen (1999) concluded that those organizations that work towards encouraging the development of leadership skills are better at dealing with competition. The transformational leadership approach is a strategy that can enable an organization’s managers become effective leaders.

Transformational leadership has been described by Peter Northhouse (2001) as a process that brings about changes and general gives an individual a different viewpoint. This simply means that transformational leadership is an innate ability to make individuals seek change and to make general improvements in the way that that they handle their day-to-day lives. This process starts with an assessment process to analyze the motives of the associates and then ensuring that their needs are satisfied as well as valued (Northouse, 2001).

Four factors are used to define transformational leadership each of which will be discussed below in consideration to their application in Net-a-porter.

Individual consideration

This is a characteristic that describes manages who are also advisors and professional guiders to their associates (Bradley, & Beryerlein 2008). Such managers generally encourage their associates to strive to attain certain goals that would enable both the associate and the company grow to the next level.

Intellectual stimulation

Managers who possess this quality are those who encourage their juniors to be practice more innovation and apply some creative intelligence, particularly when faced with challenges within the work environment. These are the kind of managers who front the idea of critical thinking and support problem solving initiatives by their associates.

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Inspirational motivation

This a trait assigned to managers who can easily relate with their juniors and convince them to work motivatedly towards the achievement of company’s goals. Such managers encourage the aspect of team spirit aimed at attaining the goals that would lead the company to command a substantial share of the market (Johnson 2004). Natalie Massenet was able to get her employees motivated enough when the company was at its inception levels and because she managed to sell her vision to them, the institution has grown to what it is today.

Idealized influence

This is a quality possessed by executive officers and other management seniors who double up as heroes for their juniors. Such managers are very trustworthy and command a lot of respect from their juniors. They are very good decision makers and are unwavering in their authority.

All the above characteristics are additive in the sense that managers need to apply them concurrently in order to obtain definite results (Northouse, 2001). According to Northouse (2001), 39 studies carried out to analyze literature on transformational leadership revealed that persons who used this leadership strategy turned out to be generally more effective leaders than those who used other approaches. This was found to apply in the leadership of both large and small institutions.

Strengths and Weakness of this style of eadership

Any strategy be it in leadership or any other managerial aspect has strengths and weakness. Transformational leadership is therefore no exception and various scholars have been able to point out a few of such strengths and weaknesses (Clegg 2006). These have been detailed below:

Strengths

  1. By applying the concept of satisfaction of individuals’ needs, transformational leadership brings about loyalty and commitment to the vision. This consequently leads to a general positive.influence on the development of the institution.
  2. The fact that individuals are encouraged to be self-motivated greatly increases the efficiency of company associates; a factor that leads to an increased output for the entire company. This attractive work atmosphere is the one that has seen the growth of Net-a-porter to where it currently is, since Massenet’s workers are always enthusiastic to go to work. If well implemented, individuals would find it easy to work for the leader. This goes even when financial and other gains are less that expected.

Weakness

Transformational leadership is generally based on a persons potential to sell his/her vision to others. It depends on the leadership skills that an individual can summon to encourage his/her associates to put their level best to the development of the institution (Gardner, Avolio, & Walumbwa). Unfortunately for some organizations, it is difficult to identify heads with such characteristics.

Application of transformational Leadership

Getting to a point where a manager can be described as a transformational leader is a process that takes some appreciable amount of input and conscious effort from the individual. Transformational leadership as a managerial strategy cannot have clear-cut steps that need to be followed in order to attain noticeable results. Instead, available literature on the topic is intended to serve as guides in application of the approach.

In general and according to Northhouse, a transformational leader must possess a number of attributes, viz.:

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  1. He/She must strive to empower his/her associates to general work towards the general growth of the organization.
  2. He/she must be a definite role model to his/her associates and uphold decent moral values
  3. He/she must be able to listen to the viewpoints of all the individuals in the organization and encourage his associates to have a cooperative spirit.
  4. He/she must have the ability to encourage his associates to work towards attaining the vision and mission of the company.
  5. He/she must set an exemplary record of initiation and implementation of positive change within the institution.
  6. He/she must be in a position to foster the growth of the institution by encouraging the personal growth of individuals under his/her administration.

Natalie Massenet was able to successfully implement the transformational approach in the leadership of her company and this has seen it grow from humble begins to a million dollar enterprise. She made sure that the input of every individual involved in the development of the idea was factored in while making major decisions. She has also over time created an ideal working environment for her staff.

Other leadership theories

Aside from the transformational leadership approach, there are seven other theories that govern the strategies adopted by an institution. These are briefly explained below:

The ‘Great man’ theory

According to this theory leadership s an innate ability- people who end up being great at leadership are born with the skill. This theory concludes that the environment cannot shape a non-leader into a leader (Fairholm 2003). Great leaders in this case are seen as heroes (and heroines) who are bound to rise to the occasion when the situation calls for them to.

Trait theory

This is to a great extent linked to the ‘great man’ theory. This theory suggests that individuals who are in leadership possess certain characteristics that make them better suited to assume such capacities (Roth 2004). This theory generally identifies certain qualities in the personalities and behaviors of individuals that are unique to all leaders. However, this theory has been the subject of great contention with those arguing to the contrary citing that there are individuals who possess the said leadership traits but are not leaders.

Contingency theory

This theory focuses on certain environment-related variables that help determine what leadership styles are ideal for certain situations. This theory sustains the ideology that no single leadership style can be said to be effective in handling all situations (Anderson, Nilson & Rhodes 2009). Some of the variables defined under this theory include the character of the associates and the demands of the situation.

Situational theory

This theory fronts the idea that leaders select the most desirable course of action depending on the situation at hand. Managers may be required to have an understanding of the various styles of leadership as the situation may demand the usage of more than one style (Hodgetts 2001).

Behavioral theory

This theory is founded on the common belief that individuals who are great in leadership are moulded by society to fit in the situation as opposed to being born with the leadership trait (Schyns & Meindl 2005). This theory suggests that leadership is a learned function of individuals.

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Participative theory

This theory suggests that the most desirable leadership style is the one that factors in the opinions of other members in the decision making process (Walton & Huey 1996). Leaders who use this style must be in a position where they can provide encouragement for the participation and contribution of team members. These leaders should also help members of the group feel more appreciated by encouraging them to give their opinions in regards to the decision making process. In this theory however, the leader decides whether or not to include the opinions of their associates in decision making.

Management theory

This is a theory that is also known as the transactional theory. It lays focus on the importance of the aspect of supervision, proper organization and team-work. The theory is based on the leadership strategy whereby individuals are rewarded for positive character and punished when they develop negative traits. Companies generally have well established guidelines for rewarding successful employees and punishing/reprimanding failure.

Organizational structure

The organizational structure of a company will determine the communication processes that will be in operation within the ranks. Most business strategy scholars support the notion that a distinct hierarchy that clearly identifies the chain of command encourages proper communication as all individuals have a person to whom they report. However, some studies have revealed that a flat organizational structure that allows all members of staff a direct communication to the head and to fellow associates will easily encourage an uninhibited flow of information (Waite 2007). Natalie Massenet’s Net-a-porter generally falls in the latter category, whereby there are no definite structures giving certain individuals supreme authority over others. It is by her encouraging open channels of communication, Massenet was able to take into consideration the brilliant opinions of her associates; an aspect that has made the company achieve some unprecedented growth.

All in all, no one organizational structure can be said to have uniform positive results. This is because all institutions are different and with each difference in structure come a lot of variables that would require the communication pathways be tweaked to suit the particular needs of the company. Below is a brief analysis of the principles of application of the two organizational structures mentioned earlier. The strengths and weaknesses of the two structures shall also be provided.

The hierarchical organizational structure with a definite chain of conduct operates in a military-like fashion. This is because it categorically identifies which individual has the necessary authority to make a particular decision. In this structure junior associates have to comply with instructions from their department heads whether or not the instructions make sense to them (Gill 2006). This structure has the advantage of ensuring that decisions are made well in time and also supports the idea of accountability. The major drawback with this structure is that it can end up causing both departmental and organizational paralysis. This is because once the commanding authority is absent, major decisions cannot be made and all the junior associates can assume redundancy and blame it on this absence. The hierarchy structure also limits the free flow of information and generally discourages open communication. The creativity and risk taking tendency of the company is diminished because in this structure the leader is always expected to pull rank when relating to junior associates, in the process stifling communication.

The flat organizational structure tends to encourage open communication. This is generally a very effective strategy in small to mid-sized institutions where leaders can be said to have very open relations with their associates. The major advantage of this structure is that it fosters growth of the company by ensuring that all the opinions of workers in the institution are considered when implementing certain strategies. This approach also goes a long way in reducing the burden for those in managerial positions by encouraging staff to be more independent (Covey 2004). The major weakness of this structure is that it can end up in creating chaos particularly in larger organizations. This is because all the varied opinions of the associates within the company have the potential to reach the senior management in the process overloading them with information. In such a case the executive officer(s) have to spend extra time to figure out which idea is strategically important and filter it out from the rest, in the process missing out on opportunities and leading to a reduction in productivity.

Team management

Within any organizational structure, it is desirable that all departments and their leaders embrace the principles of accountability. This is achieved by ensuring that individuals support the notion of ownership and clearly map out their areas of contribution to the accomplishment of the strategic initiatives set out by the institution. This is where the aspect of team management comes by allowing managers to work alongside each other in an effort to attain common goals (Lakomski 2005). Natalie Massenet was not the sole founder of the company Net-a-porter and she has severally admitted the importance of team participation in the growth of the company. Effective team management involves the induction of a number of principles (Chemmers 1997). These are explained below:

  1. Accountability-This is most important aspect of team management and is given primary consideration in every initiative. Generally, employees would like to be given some distinguished level of accountability and most of them will easily embrace responsibility as long as the institution supports the principle of empowerment.
  2. Oversight-Effective team management encourages individuals to work towards the mission and vision of the company without necessary having some commanding authority looking over them. This creates a sense of responsibility and individuals are generally more innovative and creative in conducting their roles. This however demands that very effective communication channels be established.
  3. Leadership-For effective team management, the managers and other organizational heads need to acquire leadership skills. This can be achieved by ensuring that they are subject to regular training. These heads should also be trained to encourage regular discussions with their associates, to determine performance of the organization and how it can be improved. The regularity of these discussions should be strictly adhered to.
  4. Performance- Measurement of performance and its management greatly contribute to the improvement of team. Goals set out to be achieved should be framed in such a way that they address a specific issue and they should also be measurable. The managers and other company leaders should create score cards which can be used effectively in the improvement of the performance of the team.
  5. Information- Communication holds the key to the success of effective team management. The aspect of information should be encouraged and all the teams within the company must have unlimited access to information relevant to their operation. Individuals on a team who are regarded as untrustworthy should essentially be locked out of the team
  6. Managerial skills- The managerial skills of the company heads must be constantly analyzed and taken through review process. This specifically refers to skills involved with mentoring and coaching. If they are found to be below par efforts should be made to ensure that they are well upgraded. The role of the manager must be redefined depending on the organizational structuring and level of growth of the company. The leadership style that has been established to contribute adequately to team management is the servant leadership approach.

Generally, Institutions that embrace the aspect of team leadership have high success rates in the attainment of their goals (Daft, 2007). The managers of such organizations are well skilled in the process of encouraging problem solving techniques as a function of the team. Such managers also tend to ensure that collaborative efforts are implemented across all the micro-teams of the entire company. In such companies, the communication strategies in force e are founded on the basis of mutual understanding and respect.

Organizational and national culture

Both organizational and national cultures have strong influences in the development of character for the individuals affected. Generally company cultures are not established by specific standards and are therefore informal while country cultures tend to be more formal. The cultures are intertwined and many are the times when there individual aspects are seen to conflict. For instance, a country’s culture may not favor risk-taking but an organization within the country may be encouraging and actually rewarding the same. These cultures have to be well understood if they are to be positively inculcated to individuals in an organization.

National culture

Recent research has revealed that national cultures have a great influence on the shaping of value systems within the citizens (English 2007). This ends up bringing about shared values and preferences in a way that it is easy to distinguish the individuals of one country from those of another based on their mannerisms and general attitude. The same also applies in the differentiation of the different sub-groups within a particular nation. In the latter sense, the term national culture can be slightly misleading as it can be referring to the only a section of individuals within the population of a select country.

Organisational culture

The process of categorically defining a distinguished organizational culture has clear benefits top on the list being the fact that it establishes common values and encourages employees to conduct themselves in a certain way. Most multi-national companies have printed employee handbooks and publications to guide on corporate ethics. These are used to standardize the conduct of their employees all over the world.

Organizational cultures to a great extent arise from or are influenced by national cultures (Taylor, Harrison & Kraus 2008). However, they are also defined by a number of other factors. For instance, the United States as a whole is generally seen to support a culture of individualism. However, an analysis of various entities within the country reveals that there is a wide array of organizational cultures some of which may go in tandem with the national individualism culture. Some of these cultures may also arise from other features of the company. For example, the organizational culture of Microsoft that allows individuals to dress for work however they feel was are reflection of the personality and preferences of Bill Gates, the founder. In some instances, the cultures of the organizations may have been nurtured over extended periods of time resulting in them acquiring some life of their own irrespective of the preference of the heads. This is the case with IBM.

The company Net-a-porter has a very open organizational culture and various analysts have credited it as one of the most interesting places to work in. Natalie Massenet. Being French, Massenet has had to factor in the various national cultures of her employees in order to enable the company develop a worldwide outlook.

In the book International Dimensions of Organizational Behaviou.r, the author tries to figure out whether organizational culture has a diminishing effect on national culture (Adler 2008). She comes to the conclusion that the contrary holds more water citing the findings of the research by André Laurent which revealed tat there were significant disparities in cultures among individuals working for the same multi-national organization than there were among individual employed by institutions in their native countries. This simply means that when working for multi-national organizations, Japanese tend to appear more Japanese, Somalis more Somali, Americans more American and so on and so forth. Though the reasons for the trends are not very clear, it almost appears that associates may be involved in some spirited rejection of the organization’s corporate culture.

Based on the findings above, it is safe to conclude that the national culture generally surpasses organizational culture in terms of individual influences. This therefore means that it is not safe to assume that a very strong corporate culture will overshadow the significance of national culture because when face with a contrast between the two cultural elements, individuals will tend to respond in ways that favor their national culture. It is therefore the responsibility of the institution to carry out tests on its organizational culture and compare the findings with findings obtained from an analysis of the national cultures present amongst individuals, and establish ways of resolving conflicts between the two. In essence, it is even desirable for a company to establish a way of merging the two as this would lead to increased productivity.

Conclusion

Natalie Massenet is one of the success stories in business. The growth of her company Net-a-porter from a humble enterprise in her studio to a multinational company turning over 37 million sterling pounds is a feat that only a committed business-minded person can achieve. This has analyzed both her business and leadership strategies in the light of other approaches that she could have used. It has been well established that the transformational leadership style that she embraced is best suited for the kind of business that Net-a-porter is involved in. This strategy should therefore be maintained even in the wake of the paradigm shift facing the company. The report has elaborated on the various features of the strategies adopted by Massenet, using extensive literature drawing from the works of various scholars. In conclusion, it is important to note that this strategy works for the company and should therefore be reinforced by the various other strategies that have been discussed in this report. It would be unwise for the enterprise to completely abandon a working strategy due to the current transformational changes facing the company, for another that has not been tried and tested for the same market.

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