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MBA 5223 Leadership

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MBA 5223 Leadership

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Course Code: MBA 5223
University: University Of The Southwest

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In 1981, a seemingly ordinary man named Darwin E. Smith was named chief executive of Kimberly-Clark, a stodgy old paper company whose stock had fallen 36% behind the general market over the previous 20 years. Smith, the company’s mild-mannered in-house lawyer, wasn’t so sure the board had made the right choice a feeling that was reinforced when a Kimberly-Clark director pulled him aside and reminded him that he lacked some of the qualifications for the position. But CEO he was, and CEO he remained for 20 years.
What a 20 years it was. In that period, Smith created a stunning transformation at Kimberly-Clark, turning it into the leading consumer paper-products company in the world. Under his stewardship, the company beat its rivals Scott Paper and Procter & Gamble. And in doing so, Kimberly-Clark generated cumulative stock returns that were 4.1 times greater than those of the general market, outperforming venerable companies such as Hewlett-Packard, 3M, Coca-Cola, and General Electric. As noted in a Harvard Business Review article, Kimberly-Clark is one of eleven companies on the Fortune 500 since 1975 that has been elevated from good to great and has maintained its transformed status. Mr. Smith was recognized for making this accomplishment possible.
Mr. Smith achieved this transformation by building strength within the company. He redefined and raised corporate goals. To reach this end he persistently examined the company’s leadership group, winnowing those who did not meet his specifications and promoting those who did. Mr. Smith also increased the geographical diversification of Kimberly-Clark’s facilities. The emphasis he placed on consumer products was exemplified by the money he allotted to research and development ($111 million in 1987) and his decision not to give up on the fledgling diaper business, against much opposition. His vision helped lead HUGGIES® diapers to its rank as the number 1 brand in the country today.
Additionally, he strengthened the company’s position in the tissue segment of the paper industry, pushing both Kimberly-Clark and its competitors to improve and strengthen their tissue technology and facilities. The financial strength of the industry’s tissue segment today is testament to his efforts. During Mr. Smith’s tenure as chairman and chief executive officer, Kimberly-Clark stockholders experienced returns of 19.6% annually, generating cumulative stock returns that were 4.1 times greater than those of the general market and outperforming venerable companies including industry rivals. It had been a welcomed change from the 20 years prior when Kimberly-Clark stock had fallen 36% behind the general market.
Mr. Smith was the type of leader who gave credit for success to the employees, the managers, his predecessors, and the customers. Smith’s turnaround of Kimberly-Clark is one of the best examples in the twentieth century of a leader taking a company from merely good to truly great. Smith is an individual who blends extreme personal humility with intense professional will. According to a five-year research study, executives who possess this paradoxical combination of traits are catalysts for the statistically rare event of transforming a good company into a great one. Darwin Smith was identified as the one who has the highest level in a hierarchy of executive capabilities in the research. Leaders at the other levels in the hierarchy can produce high degrees of success, but not enough to elevate companies from mediocrity to sustained excellence.
Darwin Smith’s leadership qualities not only transformed a good company into a great one but he was able to get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus and creating a culture of discipline. Good-to-great transformations don’t happen without Level 5 leaders at the helm. They just don’t.
Level 5 leadership is counterintuitive. Indeed, it is counter-cultural. People generally assume that transforming companies from good to great requires larger-than-life leaders big personalities like Iacocca, Dunlap, Welch, and Gault, who make headlines and become celebrities. Compared to those CEOs, Darwin Smith seems to have come from Mars. Shy, unpretentious, even awkward, Smith shunned attention.
When a journalist asked him to describe his management style, Smith just stared back at the scribe from the other side of his thick black-rimmed glasses. He was dressed unfashionably, like a farm boy wearing his first J.C. Penney suit. Finally, after a long and uncomfortable silence, he said: “Eccentric.” Needless to say, the Wall Street Journal did not publish a splashy feature on Darwin Smith.
But if you were to consider Smith to be soft or meek, you would be terribly mistaken. His lack of pretence was coupled with a fierce, even stoic, resolve toward life. Smith grew up on an Indiana farm and put himself through night school at Indiana University by working the day shift at International Harvester. One day, he lost a finger on the job. The story goes that he went to class that evening and returned to work the very next day. Eventually, this poor but determined Indiana farm boy earned admission to Harvard Law School.
He showed the same iron will as CEO of Kimberly-Clark. Indeed, two months after Smith became CEO, doctors diagnosed him with nose and throat cancer and told him he had less than a year to live. He duly informed the board of his illness but said he had no plans to die anytime soon. Smith held to his demanding work schedule while commuting weekly from Wisconsin to Houston for radiation therapy. He lived 25 more years, 20 of them as CEO.
Smith’s ferocious resolve was crucial to the rebuilding of Kimberly-Clark, especially when he made the most dramatic decision in the company’s history: sell the mills. Shortly after he took over, Smith and his team had concluded that the traditional core business coated paper was doomed to mediocrity. Its economics were bad and the competition weak. But, they reasoned, if Kimberly-Clark was thrust into the fire of the consumer paper-products business, better economics and world-class competition like Procter & Gamble would force it to achieve greatness or perish.
And so, like the general who burned the boats upon landing on enemy soil, leaving his troops to either succeed or die, Smith announced that Kimberly-Clark would sell its mills even the namesake mill in Kimberly, Wisconsin. All proceeds would be thrown into the consumer business, with investments in brands like Huggies diapers and Kleenex tissues.
The business media called the move stupid, and Wall Street analysts quickly downgraded the stock. But Smith never wavered. Twenty-five years later, Kimberly-Clark owned Scott Paper and beat Procter & Gamble in six of eight product categories. In retirement, Smith reflected on his exceptional performance by saying simply, “I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job.”

From your understanding of Darwin Smith, in the case study, brief his qualities as a Leader.

Leaders are Born / Leaders are Made. Justify your understanding From your analysis of the personality of Darwin Smith,

What in your understanding is the nature of the leadership style exhibited by Darwin Smith ?

What are the types of skills that will be required of a person to be a leader, if one has to be in the genre of Darwin Smith?

Is it possible in today’s context to have leadership qualities possessed by Darwin E. Smith ?


The qualities as a leader which Darwin had, clearly justifies that he was a level 5 leader. Some of the qualities which Smith possessed are as follows:

Focus on achieving goals: He was really focused and had an aim in his mind that he wanted to make the company great from good. He would not expect no for an answer as what he needed, he achieved.
No Mediocrity: The level 5 leaders clearly know that there are three things which are to be prevented in order to make the company great. They are mediocrity, complacency and nepotism. Darwin did not want to tolerate the average because he just could not stand being average himself.  He always focused on what exactly he needed and that is what took him so far(Collins, 2007).
Systematically building the board: It has been researched that not just any kind of person is needed to build a great company rather it is the right people who builds one. When the people will be right, they would be passionate about their job and that would help in making the company great. Darwin winnowed the people who were not right for the firm without any hesitation and kept the good ones. This was one important quality that took him so far.
Focus on the Right People: If people will work in the wrong area, there will always be mediocre results formed. People like Darwin worked with right people to get good results as he focused on the right resources and area to get the best. Also, he did not encourage nepotism or any kind of politics in office which is really needed in today’s life as well.
Credit to the employees: Darwin always gave credit to the right employees that he worked with for good performance of the company(Sabutey, 2018).  

Leaders are made
Leaders are not born but they are made. This is what one can get from the leadership personality of Darwin Smith. When the leaders are made not born, they go through the process of the teaching, learning and observation (Liccardo, 2007). There are some behavioral theories which say that leadership is actually an amalgamation of skills which can be learned by training, perception, experience and practice which develops with time. Learning about the leadership is the activity that continues for the lifetime. Leaders who are good will always look forward to the growth opportunities which will support them in learning the new skills. Darwin was just a lawyer in Kimberly and he knew nothing about being a leader. Yet, he learned that skill with his talent and remained the CEO of the company for 20 years. The leaders who are made are the amalgamation of some skills like self awareness, self motivation, they are efficient socially and have empathy too. Darwin always believed in working in team but that team should be filled with right people who are fit for the job (Giulio, 2015). There is some experience that initiates a leadership quality in a person. Darwin came from a family of farmers from Indiana and he knew from his very childhood that he has to work hard and also seen some experience which made him strong and tactful. Hence, experience makes the person the leader. Most of the leaders operate in effectiveness which needs them to have certain qualities of being adaptive and perceptive (NSLS, 2017). These are some of the personality traits of Darwin which clearly suggests that leadership is made not born.
3. Leadership Style of Darwin
The nature of leadership style that Darwin followed was 5 leadership styles. 5 Leadership is much related to the transformational leadership style but both of them have a few differences too. Darwin was considered to have more traits that a 5 leadership style having leader would have (HVLI, 2018). A leader is always known by the qualities he possesses and also displays as a true leader. These qualities are not just some arbitrary feature but these qualities make a leader an exceptional one. Leaders like Darwin not just let go off their ego when it comes to working with effective teams but also let go of their self needs or keep them as least priority. They also channelize their hard work for the growth and the benefit of the development, betterment and achieving the goal for the company. Darwin was ambitious and took the initiative in leading the firm towards success when the firm was facing a downfall. Smith had humility which a 5 leadership leader should possess and made efforts in the firm to take it to the higher level. The firm was also lagging behind in terms of stock market to the height that it went to become the pioneer (Leonard, 2010). The firm went on to become the leading one in the paper based user products too and with Darwin’s dedication, the firm was able to achieve the stock returns 4 times of the usual market. He was influenced by nothing in his whole life. He was not fearful of anything. He was detected with the nose and throat cancer and was informed that he will be able to live just for an year more but he was so determined with the work and his life that he did not just cured the cancer but went on to love 25 years more out of which 20 years he was the CEO of the firm (Crivellaro, 2014).
4. Skills required to be like Darwin
There are a few skills which are the most in order to become like Darwin. They are as follows:

Communication: It is one of the most significant skills required to be a leader like Darwin. It is the ability which is used to strategize critical factors and some of the strategies which are nothing if the team is unable to follow the instruction.  To ensure that the team has understood the tasks the right way, a leader should be able to communicate well with the team(Luthra & Dahiya, 2015).
Awareness: A good leader like Darwin should have a keen eye on the process of the business for learning about the ideas which are effective and not effective. The quality of observing everything can take a leader to know about the minute details which might be prove to be effective in the business growth.
Honesty: Great leaders are not the people who get good results but those who do value their employees with honesty and also value the firm they work in. The team members will always never like what a leader says but if it is the honest message, they will at least try to understand it work towards it(Bisk, 2018).
Relation Building: A leader should be able to build good relations with the people he works with. People will always appreciate the leader who motivates them and encourages them to work well. The employees are pen up with such type of leaders which can give a leader an extra nudge to do good for the firm.
Innovation: Like Darwin put his hands in Huggies diaper market and a few other markets as well, he really knew how to try hands on new businesses and make Kimberly as the greatest growth rating company of a kind in the world. Similarly, a leader should have the capability to make new innovation inside or outside the company which helps in the growth of the firm(Hao, 2015). The leader who is innovative is the one who takes complete responsibility of the problems and makes a new way forward towards bringing the work as per the expectation.  

5. Qualities like Darwin in Current World
There are some of the leaders who have the qualities of innovation, relationship skills development, communication etc. For Example: Steve Jobs had an eye on new innovations and he made Apple Inc. what it is today (Wadhwa & Parimoo, 2013). Yet the qualities like Honesty and awareness and humility is found at very less places in today’s world. It was researched that there is politics in almost every firm. It is hard to find a firm which is completely honest with its employees and that there is no politics. However, the question is that is it possible to have qualities like Darwin in present world. So, the answer would be a yes. It is possible to have such qualities in today’s world but the leaders would have to be like Darwin then. If such type of firms works in any field, those will be the firms which would attain the highest level of growth because of t he honesty and the passion the people will have for the firm (Wisniewski, 2010).
Bisk, 2018. 5 Leadership Skills Found in Managers. [Online] Available at: https://www.villanovau.com/resources/leadership/5-leadership-skills-found-in-managers/#.W7spjHszbIU[Accessed 8 October 2018].
Boyt, M. B., 2018. You Won’t Get Far as a Leader Without These Skills and Qualities. [Online] Available at: https://fairygodboss.com/articles/leadership-skills[Accessed 8 October 2018].
Chouinard, Y., 2006. Patagonia, Inc.. [Online] Available at: https://www.anbhf.org/Journal%202006/Yvon%20Chouinard.pdf[Accessed 8 October 2018].
Collins, J., 2007. Level 5 Leadership. [Online] Available at: https://twrcc.co.za/Level_5_Leadership_article__Jim_Collins.pdf[Accessed 8 October 2018].
Crivellaro, F., 2014. Accepting and understanding evolution in Italy: a case study from a selected public attending a Darwin Day celebration. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 7(13).
Dalluay, V. S., 2016. Impacts of Leadership Style Effectiveness of Managers and Department Heads to Employees’ Job Satisfaction and Performance on Selected Small-Scale Businesses in Cavite, Philippines. International Journal of Recent Advances in Organizational Behaviour and Decision Sciences, 2(2).
Giulio, J. V. D., 2015. Are leaders born or made?. [Online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/270684591_Are_leaders_born_or_made[Accessed 8 October 2018].
Hao, M. J., 2015. How Effective Leadership can Facilitate Change in Organizations through Improvement and Innovation. Global Journal of Management and Business Research, 15(9).
HVLI, 2018. Darwin Smith. [Online] Available at: https://hvli.org/models/darwin-smith/[Accessed 8 October 2018].
Khan, A. & Ahmad, W., 2012. “Leader’s Interpersonal Skills and Its Effectiveness at different Levels of Management”. International Journal of Business and Social Science , 3(4).
Khan, M. S., Khan, I. & Qureshi, Q. A., 2015. The Styles of Leadership: A Critical Review. Public Policy and Administration Research, 5(3).
Labrague, M., 2017. Patagonia, A Case Study in the Historical Development of Slow Thinking. Journal of Design History, 30(2).
Leonard, D., 2010. The Characteristics of Quality Leadership. [Online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273141772_The_Characteristics_of_Quality_Leadership[Accessed 8 October 2018].
Liccardo, S., 2007. Level 5 leaders and the romance of leadership construct. [Online] Available at: https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=[Accessed 8 October 2018].
Luthra, A. & Dahiya, R., 2015. Effective Leadership is all About Communicating. International Journal of Management Business Studies, 5(3).
Muteswa, R. P. T., 2016. Qualities of a Good Leader and the Benefits of Good Leadership to an Organization: A Conceptual Study. European Journal of Business and Management , 8(24).
NSLS, 2017. Leaders are Made, Not Born––Starting in School. [Online] Available at: https://nslsfacts.org/2017/07/28/leaders-are-made-not-born-starting-in-school/[Accessed 8 October 2018].
Potloc, 2018. 5 Characteristics of successful entrepreneurs. [Online] Available at: https://potloc.com/blog/en-ca/archive/5-characteristics-of-successful-entrepreneurs/[Accessed 8 October 2018].
S., B. I., 2017. The effectiveness of leadership management training. Polish journal of management studies, 16(2).
Sabutey, F., 2018. The 12 Level-5-Leadership Qualities You Need to Build a Great Company. [Online] Available at: https://www.expandgh.com/12-level-5-leadership-qualities-need-to-build-great-company/[Accessed 8 October 2018].
Toma, s., 2013. steve Jobs And Modern leadership. Change and Leadership, 17.
Wadhwa, S. & Parimoo, D., 2013. Leadership and its Challenges in the Globalizing World. Journal of Management Sciences And Technology, 1(1).
Wisniewski, M. A., 2010. Leadership and the Millennials: Transforming Today’s Technological Teens into Tomorrow’s Leaders. Journal of Leadership Education, 9(1).

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