Tent City Case Study

July 17, 2017

They say adversity brings the best out of man. A situation will always prove our worth. Such situations are very uncomfortable to handle and may look daunting at the time, but we are stronger because of such situations. The role of Governmental agencies, and especially the leaders, in disaster management is a thankless job. We all know that the disaster relief is being organized and handled by Government agencies or authorities, but we never know who these people are or how they work, and their limitations at a personal and organizational level.


Mounting a disaster relief is an enormous effort, involving thousands of people from various Government agencies, volunteers and local authorities. The leaders who manage this are the top of the flight leaders, who work against time, with limited resources and what drives them on is the desire to succeed and save lives and property. The true mettle of a leader is tested in such operations, when people work against time, and without a visible tangible benefit to accrue from the effort.

Ms. Sarah Baker has to lead this Tent City initiative. She is afraid if she hands this responsibility to the Public Works people, it would not be very effective. She, in the process of leading this operation, has to liaison, monitor, lead, motivate, and manage thousands of workers and volunteers. She has to decide on her approach towards this operation, for the operation to be successful.

Transformational versus Transactional Leadership

A transactional leader works on the principle of work and reward. This type of leadership typically sets goals for each individual, and specifies an appropriate reward for the same. This is a bargain approach, where the leader reinforces the need of the employee to hold his end of the bargain. Such leadership sets up a competitive relationship between the leader and the employee and the employee starts competing with even his co workers. A transactional leader manages by exception, both actively and passively.

A transformational leader shows his employees a vision of the ideal, beyond self interest and inspires people through his communication and action. He expects high performance from his people. Transformational leaders exhibit three behaviors to bring about change and results – personal charisma, intellectual stimulation and individualized attention. Such leadership produces change from the individual perspective as well as from the organizational perspective and produce excellent performances (Appendix 1).

Lee Iacocca, who took over in Chrysler and restructured and turned around the ailing company during the 70s and the 80s, is a perfect example of a charismatic transformational leader. Iacocca started his career as an engineer trainee in Ford in 1946. He rose up through some spectacular performance and instrumental in launching Ford classics like Mustang, Cougar and Mark III. He was forced to leave Ford and then joined the ailing Chrysler.

Quote: “I have found that being honest is the simplest technique I can use. Tell people what you want to accomplish and what you are willing to sacrifice for it”.

A perfect example of a transformational leader. He started out with trying to transform the ideals of his closest subordinates, and this cascaded down to the entire organization. A transformational leader inspires other to become like them, and hence, the organization started generating effective leaders (Kelly, 2003). Chrysler employees started putting in inspired performances, that were selfless, involved sacrifices for the greater good of the organization and the society.

Lou Gerstner, the CEO of IBM from 1993 to 2002 was a transformational leader too. When he took over, he identified IBM’s problem as success syndrome (Sheppard, 2003). In the earlier decades, IBM had been the greatest commercial organization in the world, but slowly had grown insular, rigid and inward-looking (Sheppard, 2003). Gerstner says changing and aligning people’s attitudes is very important to success, but it is the most difficult thing to do. The management must create conducive environment for change and have conviction that its employees will be up to it (Sheppard, 2003). Gerstner entered IBM when it had lost $8.1 billion in a year. He had to change everything from accountability, to communication, to customer service standards, to systems thinking. The company seemed to be dangerously preoccupied with itself rather than its customers (DiCarlo, 2002). Gerstner ties employee remuneration to the performance of the IBM Company as a whole and not only his division. This encouraged employees to move out of their fiefdoms and cooperate and contribute to the organization.

General George Patton is believed to the best military commander ever. He was clever at putting on many “faces”, and he put on his “war face” to inspire his soldiers. Patton was a fascinating subject as he proved to be colorful and also very intelligent in military matters in holding the attention of his men. He always held the awe of his men and could transform them into fierce warriors, by inspiring speeches. He also believed in talking honest to his men and making things clear to them. (Blumenson, 1994).

All these examples cited above are transformational leaders who have created something from scratch or better, created positives and winners out of negatives and losers. In all these cases, they have inspired their subordinates to put in that extra bit of effort, to transform the outfit into a fighting fit and winning outfit.


Transformational leadership could be the best suited style for Sarah Baker now, as the people who come together in Tent City are all working for greater good and not material rewards. If such a contingency had not come up, the heroes of Smallsville would still be calmly going about their everyday work. What they need is inspiration to believe that what they are doing is significant to their community and not an unnecessary disturbance in their well ordered lives.

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Hall, J., Johnson, S., Wysocki, A. & Kepner, K. (2002). Transformational leadership: the transformation of managers and associates. Retrieved May 6, 2010,

Kelly, M.L. (2003, January 1). Academic advisers as transformational leaders. The Mentor. Retrieved May 6, 2010

Sheppard, Paul (2003, February). Leading the Turn Around: Lou Gerstner of IBM. Wharton Leadership Digest. Retrieved May 6, 2010

Blumenson, Martin (1994). Patton. Harper Perennial.

Lisa DiCarlo (2002, November). How Lou Gerstner got IBM to Dance. Forbes. Retrieved on May 6, 2010

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