ESMT Case Study

Aharai: Leading in front of the lines

ESMT Case Study No. ESMT-413-0141-1
Jan U. Hagen (2013)
Subject(s): Human resources management/organizational behavior
Keyword(s): Leadership

The case serves as an illustration of organizational behavior when it comes to the issue of silence in organizations. It describes a critical leadership situation that requires speaking up against the orders of a superior in a hierarchical structure – in this case, the armed forces. When the protagonist, a young Israeli officer leading a special-forces platoon, receives an order that would put his platoon in extreme danger, he has to make a decision. The case is not concerned with combat situations, but rather with how to act as a responsible leader. Given the setting of an army unit governed by command and control, the initial case discussion is likely to focus on typical leadership issues, such as motivation and followership. However, the more interesting aspect concerns the dual roles that leaders typically have to fulfill, that is, they may be both leaders and followers. The protagonist of the case is a captain who receives an order from a major that will have consequences for the captain’s platoon. The core issue of the case is the decision to reject the order in question. Participants will discuss why speaking up is an issue in organizations and usually does not occur. The case also allows us to look at situations in high-risk organizations that allow open communication.

The case may be used in a leadership course in MBA programs. It may also be used in executive education to support sessions on both leadership as well as crisis and error management. Apart from the main objective of highlighting the issue of speaking up, executives may also be asked to describe how to lead and motivate individuals beyond using the normal incentive tools (e.g., bonuses and promotions). On the whole, the case may be used to address the following subjects: speaking up, leadership, responsibility, motivation, and followership.

Teaching note Yes
Also available in German
Length 4p
Industry Military
Geographical setting Israel
Setting period 2006
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