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The Black Swan: The CSR Saga of Inspired Leadership Intervention*

CASE STUDY, CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
ET Cases - GSMC, 22 Pages

Case Preview

The Black Swan: The CSR Saga of Inspired Leadership Intervention

 

“They are asking you to dig your own grave” said Kumar, a senior veteran of coal mining industry, an old friend of Rajiv R. Mishra (Mishra), designated as the new Chairman cum Managing Director (CMD) of Western Coalfields Limited (WCL). Mishra, a fair-skinned, tall man with a good physique, sparkling black eyes and streaks of white hair and wearing a navy-blue suit, was as careful with his answer as he was thoughtful. He said, “The situation remains unstable. Solving the financial difficulty of the company will not necessarily dissolve the cultural obstacles. I see a silver lining in the cloud and my gut instincts suggest me to take a courageous decision at this decisive moment.” He articulated his philosophy of organizational goal achievement as ‘management by effort’ for which high morale and team synergy were the essential ingredients. He explained, “I see it as a unique moment of collaboratively restoring an organization to its former glory, inspired by an idealist vision with abundant pragmatism, timely initiatives and principled actions.” Mishra elaborated his philosophy saying, “every problem is an opportunity that requires effort to become what you desire. If I desire a turn-around for WCL, then I shall have to make solid efforts and accord cent percent devotion to it.”........................

Teaching Note Preview

The Black Swan: The CSR Saga of Inspired Leadership Intervention

 

Synopsis

Western Coalfields Limited (WCL) was facing severe financial crisis as its mining activities had nearly ceased at its various locations and coal production suffered adversely. The routine Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities were not helping it resolve the issue of new land acquisition. Continuous drought in the region had spelled doom for the farmers who had incurred debt and were driven to commit suicide out of desperation. WCL’s leadership was grappling with familiar and unfamiliar issues of recalibrating the CSR to make it responsive to societal concerns, make the turn-around of the organization possible and initiate mining in new areas through successful land acquisition. The top management lacked harmony and a sense of direction. Motivation levels of the employee were also down. The challenges for leadership were to become relevant and focused and neutralize the crisis. It also needed to overcome the organizational inertia, resistance to change and create an inspiring goal that could rally the whole organization.

Rajiv R. Mishra (Mishra), Chairman cum Managing Director (CMD) of WCL, realized that the  change in CSR he was envisaging was not of an incremental nature but it was a big, radical shift in terms of commitment, scope and impact. He needed to create a compelling goal but had to tread the ground carefully lest unanimity of vision is not mistaken as a case of groupthink. He therefore convened several rounds of brainstorming sessions. He challenged the experts, asked them tough questions, heard out the opponents and gave opportunities to criticize and evaluate. Advocates of different opinions crossed their swords in different committees till consensus on these points was reached. They debated, argued, and still debated more after realizing that their options were getting lesser day-by-day.

Eventually, such changes bring intrigue, power struggle and conflict. Mishra was aware about the phenomena. So, he honed his leadership, his consultative style brought him his subordinates’ support and he was able to steer the direction of company’s CSR approach. He walked his talk, holding marathon interactive sessions with the masses which galvanized the organization into purposeful activity.

Recalibrating the CSR was an affirmation that the organization could have been doing wrong and it was a case of mismatch and therefore the allegation of groupthink was baseless. He also avoided stereotyping the opposition and dispelled false unanimity by triggering an open debate about the future course of action. He was also clear about the goal of his endeavour and never wore his morality for display and self-aggrandizement. He was determined to stand up for what was right, spoke his mind out clearly and encouraged healthy debate. He won loyal supporters within the organization as well as the support of external stakeholders. He thus accomplished his mission of bringing water to the farms of people living in the mining area who reciprocated his gesture and the company’s new mining projects got underway.

Prerequisite Conceptual Understanding/Before the Classroom Discussion

The students/participants must be asked to read the following bereft of which no adequate discussion and analysis would become possible.

• Carroll, A. B. (1979). A three-dimensional conceptual model of corporate performance. Academy of Management Review, 497-505.
• Garriga, E., & Melé, D. (2004). Corporate social responsibility theories: mapping the territory. Journal of Business Ethics, 53(1), 51-71.
• Sergiovanni, T. (2007). Rethinking Leadership: a Collection of Articles. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin

Case Positioning and Setting

The case illustrates the nature and concept of organizational leadership, role of commitment, passion and risk-taking behavior in an organization. It can be used in courses related to CSR, corporate citizenship, ethical leadership, general management, strategic management, and public sector businesses. The case has contemporary business relevance for MBA, Executive MBA and Executive Development Programs.

Learning Objectives

The case explores how leadership interventions can usher in organizational transformation, building a cohesive team and boosting its morale. It discusses variety of contemporary issues confronting WCL and the role of its leader in giving a sense of direction and resolving the issues. It also details the ethical and moral imperatives of the problem amidst dwindling business fortune, and the power of transformational leadership intervention in the form of enlightened Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) based on ‘true north’ principle in altering the confrontational context.....................

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Product code: CSR-1-0009, CSR-1-0009A

Abstract

This case study analyzes transformational leadership and how it turned around a moribund organization, Western Coalfields Ltd. (WCL), into a thriving one. The case illustrates the nature and concept of organizational leadership, role of commitment, passion and risk-taking behavior in an organization. Mobilization of organizational commitment and affirmative action requires an ethically sensitive leader who is tuned to society’s crying needs. This case study highlights the transformational leadership style of Rajiv R. Mishra (Mishra), the newly appointed Chairman cum Managing Director (CMD) of WCL. When Mishra took over as the CMD, there were several issues confronting WCL – drought induced agrarian crisis in its area of operation, difficulty in land acquisition, stakeholder protest, financial mess, market competition, environmental crisis and demoralization of the company. The origin of the crisis, broad range of operations of the company, corporate performance as well as meaningful resolution of the crisis are dealt with in this case study.



Pedagogical Objectives

The case explores how leadership interventions can usher in organizational transformation, building a cohesive team and boosting its morale. It discusses variety of contemporary issues confronting WCL and the role of its leader in giving a sense of direction and resolving the issues. It also details the ethical and moral imperatives of the problem amidst dwindling business fortune, and the power of transformational leadership intervention in the form of enlightened Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) based on ‘true north’ principle in altering the confrontational context.
The learning objectives are as follows:

  • The case highlights how a perceptive leader can turn a problem into an opportunity to build his team for higher performance
  • The case is about creative handling of problems through innovative informal forums and the use of social media
  • The case elucidates ways of prioritizing core issues when the situation becomes alarming
  • In a skewed age profile of the organization, where 70% of the senior officers are retiring in a couple of years, the case is an example of how young executives can be aggressively engaged in decision making process by giving them larger responsibilities
  • The case also illustrates how CSR communication should be done by the leadership. At WCL, both sign and symbol became important and the task became more than just overcoming the issue of water scarcity. Providing much needed water for agriculture and drinking purpose to farmers who were important stakeholders in WCL symbolized a close and warm connection persuading the government to ease the mining norms for prudent as well as moral reasons

Case Positioning and Setting

The case amply elucidates the concept of leadership, role of commitment, passion and risk-taking behavior in an organization. The case can be taught in courses related to CSR, corporate citizenship, ethical leadership, general management, strategic management, and public sector business. The case has contemporary business relevance for MBA, Executive MBA and Executive Development Programs.


* GSMC 2017, IIM Raipur

This Case Pack Includes:
- Abstract
- Case Study
- Teaching Note (**ONLY for Academicians)
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