Case Study Essay on Stayer’s Approach to Leadership Development

Stayer’s Approach to Leadership Development


Leadership development refers to a term defining a well-organized and systematic way to improve organization leadership and a person’s excellence. Equally, it is a process of enhancing personal growth traits that can improve an individual competence in leadership and their effectiveness (Hughes, 2004). This can be achieved through a series of advanced education programs, consistent leadership retreats and courses as well as interaction with successful and renowned world leaders. Leadership effectiveness development requires a broader approach because of the important role it plays in the achievement of objectives set by an organization. Therefore, organizations need to invest in the development of a culture and strategy that is sustainable capable of ensuring all personnel acquire necessary skills that can enable them to be effective leaders where they serve (Hughes, 2004).

Stayer’s Approach to Leadership Development

Ralph Stayer was named president of Johnsonville Sausage Company, a family operated business in 1978, which is a leader sausage producer in the US. Stayer propelled the company to be the leading sausage brand in the US and beyond (Stayer, 1990). This was attained through systematic process of change that started in the early 1980s. Stayer begun changing the organization through identifying various issues that posed challenges towards the improvement of its growth and profitability. Initially, he adopted authoritative leadership approach in which case he was the one making all decisions regarding the company’s welfare. This limited the employees from getting involved in the process of decision making relating to the company and ultimately, it demotivated them (Stayer, 1990). Upon this realization, Stayer changed his approach adopting a leadership style incorporating all views made by employees in the company. It is this that made them feel they were part and parcel of the organization and it ultimately saw them devoting their energies and efforts into achieving the objectives set by the company (Stayer, 1990). As employees continued with their involvement in decision making decisions regarding their departments and work, they also became more creative and responsible. Stayer, also equally allowed the employees to serve within the same department so they could work as a team and this meant the company, was eventually run by teams. The teams made sure their respective departments met the targets set and improved on all aspects of the larger organization to perpetuate overall company growth. This made sure the responsibility relating to quality control, human resource management, setting remuneration and promotion packages was delegated to various teams within the company (Stayer, 1990). When Palmer offered the company a contract, Stayer involved all employees in the process of decision making related to the most ideal direction to take, further enhancing careful scrutiny as well as subsequent acceptance for the offer. This would not be achievable if he has relied only on the few top managers that might have had second thoughts and rejected the amazing opportunity.

Stayer’s approach in the implementation of change in Johnsonville Sausage Company has various limitations and strengths. Involvement of employees in decision making at Johnsonville is among the greatest strengths exhibited by the approach. This is attributed to the fact the approach brought an amazing sense of employee responsibility and this led to improved efficiency and performance. Embracing teamwork in different departments in the company is also another strength the approach used by stayer portrayed in change implementation (Stayer, 1990). This is since the approach made sure the employees assumed collective responsibility and their efforts were as well appreciated as a team rather than individuals. Therefore, this eliminated any unnecessary competition that hindered rapid growth and achievement of company objectives. Over involvement of the teams in decision making can be attributed to major limitation hindering quick decision making in the approach made by Stayer. This also led to some major delays while implementing the important decisions that needed urgent attention. Training is among the techniques adopted by the company in making sure various employees developed the capacity for quality leadership. In this manner, it was able to acquire necessary skills and knowledge that would make the company competent in implementing and making various decisions (Zenger &Stinnett 2010). Equally, another technique used in the company was enhancement of leadership capacity among different employees as such, making them more responsible. Delegation enabled employees to learn how they should perform their duties that needed critical decision making, in turn preparing them to handle some of the major tasks (Zenger & Stinnett, 2010). Mentoring and caching are equally important techniques adopted by the company towards ensuring leadership capacity among the employees is enhanced. This made it possible for the existing leaders to be more competent so as to share their experience with the upcoming leaders in the organization and ensure that they became skilled and competent (Stayer, 1990).

Stayer as well developed trusting relationships with the team by involving them in the process of making decisions regarding their welfare as well as that of the company. He also strengthened the development by delegating some crucial responsibilities some of which included quality control, remuneration, human resource management, work scheduling and promotions to different teams in the organization. He also permitted the staff of the company to hold meetings in his absence and accepted various resolutions that were made in the course of the meetings. This article is the same to others covered in the course since it further provides insights into how to adopt better approaches of leadership towards improving performance of leaders in different organizations (Stayer, 1990). It also addresses a leader’s role in spearheading change within an organization and the varying benefits derived as an organization embraces the needed changes as indicated by other articles.


It is clear that Stayer realized how fundamental it was for him to make changed to the approach of management he adopted in his organization so it could continue its operation and attain rapid growth. Therefore, he formulated a systematic change plan that made sure that the organization adopted new leadership approach that would involve the employees in the organization. Stayer’s process of change made it possible for the organization workforce to make some drastic changes and adopt teamwork as well as great responsibility in different tasks. Ultimately, this made it possible for the country to witness great growth in productivity and profitability.



Hughes, H. (2004). Leadership Development: Past, Present, and Future, Human Resource Planning, 27(1): 12-19.

Stayer, R. (1990). How I Learned to Let My Workers Lead, Harvard Business Review, 1(1): 66-83.

Zenger, J and Stinnett, K. (2010). The Extraordinary Coach, How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow, McGraw-Hill: New York.