Back on track! Successful management techniques to get a company out of debt pile

©2014 Textbook 74 Pages


The present work is analysing the successful turnaround of the Japanese car manufacturer Nissan in 1999 to 2001. Very often transformational change fails due to different factors, in most cases though due to the insufficient employee’s motivation or due to cultural problems when two international partners try to gain the competitive advantage through merger or alliance. To analyse the successful turnaround of Nissan after its alliance with Renault, a ‘new’ model for conducting organizational change was introduced. The provided framework unites both actions and attitudes, necessary for motivating employees and establishing new structural and cultural patterns. The example of Nissan proved that clear analysis of the present situation, cross -border communication during the whole transformational process, the sense of urgency established from the very beginning and total commitment of top management and employees are the vital factors that define the success of transformational intention.


Table Of Contents

Table of Contents

1. Objectives
1.1 Structure and methodology
1.2 Research

2. The overview of leadership approaches
2.1 Major characteristics of a leader
2.2 Leadership styles and roles
2.2.1 Goleman’s six leadership styles
2.2.2 Situational leadership
2.2.3 Transactional leadership
2.2.4 Transformational leadership

3. Reasons for strategic change
3.1 Transactional change
3.2 Transformational change

4. Different levels of change in organisation
4.1 Individual change: reasons for resistance
4.2 Team change: the role of teams in a change management process
4.3 Organisational change: organisation metaphors
4.3.1 Three models of organisational change
4.3.2 Change of organisational culture
4.3.3 “New” approach for conducting organisational change

5. Nissan’s U-turn: 1999-
5.1 Overview of Nissan’s economic situation in
5.2 Carlos Ghosn: the European leader versus the Japanese tradition
5.2.1 Different leadership styles implemented by Carlos Ghosn
5.2.2 The U-turn of communication in Nissan
5.2.3 Cultural U-turn of Nissan with Carlos Ghosn
5.3 Leading change: the secret of Carlos Ghosn success as a leader
5.3.1 Character Attributes Behaviours Emotions
5.3.2 Competence
5.4 Transformational change of Nissan according to 8 Steps to New Organisation Approach

6. Conclusion

List of tables

Table 1: Six leadership styles according to Goleman

Table 2: Nine team roles according to Belbin

Table 3: Kotter’s and Kanter’s leading change models

List of figures

Figure 1: Leadership styles model of Hersey and Blanchard

Figure 2: Credibility

Figure 3: Inspiring leadership



I wish to thank my dear mother who supported me, taught me, and loved me. To her I dedicate this book.

Thank you!

1. Objectives

In times of globalisation, more and more enterprises try to strengthen their market position through acquisition or alliance with new partners, so that the problem of uniting two companies and establishing a globally effective organisation gets on weight. Statistics on transformational change is not very positive though, only around 30 percent is reported to be successful.[1] Nevertheless, some positive examples of the past and present show that transformational change indeed can succeed - if done correctly. What are the factors that define whether a change will succeed or fail?

The main objective of this study will be to analyse the success criteria of transformational change and the leader’s role in it on example of a Japanese car maker. Nissan’s turnaround in 1999 was initially criticised by industry insiders, but two years after the beginning of the transformation it was widely discussed in the international media and claimed as “sensational” because of its prompt and astonishing results. One man behind this change was Carlos Ghosn, who had a double function at that time as COO, both of Nissan and Renault, and could bring the heavy in-debt Japanese car maker into the black again.

1.1 Structure and methodology

The focus of the work is predominantly on leadership and on change management. At first, leadership styles and roles will be presented, followed by the reasons for strategic change as well as different types of change such as individual, team, organisational change and transformation of organisational culture. After the introduction of known models on organisational and cultural transformation, a “new” model of organisational transformation will be worked out to provide the framework for analyzing Nissan’s successful turnaround. The model can be adopted for analysis of transformational changes in general or for planning one.

In the practical part, the turnaround of Nissan will be analysed according to the “new” model and Carlos Ghosn leadership as well as reasons for his success will be examined.

1.2 Research

There is plenty of literature on research of leadership and change management. One type of literature provides the overview of theories and research results, the next one deals with case studies and is aimed at developing leadership skills, the third type of literature on leadership unites both features. The following overview illustrates the most important works on leadership and change management.

The “gurus” of leadership such as Bernard Bass provided theoretical models on leadership as well as new insights from cognitive social psychology, communication, political and social studies. John Kotter, known for his eight steps change management process, gave valuable information on leading change from the experience he gathered in long years of consulting. Andrew DuBrin, along with descriptions of leadership styles and behaviours, offered leadership skills development techniques as he believes that leadership can be trained. John Maxwell gathered practical experience of leading different churches as a pastor and wrote more than 60 books on leadership, mainly dealing with improving leadership qualities. Esther Green and Mike Cameron provided a detailed and deep overview of change management models as well as leadership approaches and came up with their own comparative analysis of examined models. After years of research on organisational behaviour Stephen Robbins showed how to approach organisational transformation from the individual, group and organisational point of view and gave a solid theoretical basis on understanding organisational behaviour. Posner and Kouzes conducted hundreds of interviews with business and non profit organisations leaders and provided a view on leadership as a critical aspect of human organisation, answering the question what leaders shall do in order that they are followed.

2. The overview of leadership approaches

Since the 1950s, leadership has been subject of numerous studies, theories and approaches all around the world. Barnhard Bass, for example, demonstrated the increasing interest in leadership with the following example:

“By 1948 Stodgill was able to locate 128 studies of leadership. There were 124 articles, books, and abstracts on leadership published in England and 4 in Germany up to 1947. In contrast, 188 articles on leadership appeared in just one journal Leadership Quarterly btw. 1990 and 1999.“[2]

In their researches scholars wanted to answer the questions „Can leadership be learned? Or is it the destiny of the chosen ones?” Two approaches appeared and were supposed to answer this question: the trait and the process approach. The trait approach is the oldest one and is backed up by one hundred years of research.[3]

The trait approach sees leadership as a number of traits that a leader must have in order to lead his followers. The trait approach is intuitively appealing because we get used to view leaders as people with extraordinary abilities who do extraordinary things.[4]

If leadership at first was connected with definite traits and qualities, the next step in leadership theory was a shift in leadership paradigm and it was viewed as a phenomenon that resides in the context of the interaction between leaders and followers and makes leadership available to everyone. This process approach claims that as a process leadership can be observed in leader behaviours and can be learned.[5]

Sadler divides a leadership process into several distinct areas[6]:

1. The processes involved are: influence, exemplary behaviour and persuasion.
2. Interaction between actors who are leader and followers.
3. Nature of interaction is influenced by the situation. For example, commander and troops on the battlefield is different from interaction between a team leader and group of scientists.
4. Process has various outcomes, economic success is just one way to measure leadership, but there are other goals that can be achieved through efficient leadership such as commitment of personnel, change of the organisational culture and team cohesion.[7]

In the 1970s, the empirical research on leadership turned its attention to situation and context in which leadership takes place.[8]

After the trait, process and situation approach on leadership the last known shift in leadership theory took place in the early 1980s. Since that time there is a rising interest on charismatic, visionary, and transformational leadership and a perspective that both personal traits and situations are important in determine the emergence, success and effectiveness of leadership.[9]

There are further approaches on leadership such as emerged versus assigned[10] as well as leadership as a role in organisation, but those are not going to be viewed in detail here.

As there are many definitions of leadership, the understanding of leadership as influence on people’s way of thinking, emotions and feelings according to John Maxwell will be applied here.[11]

Another quite important distinction shall be made between leaders and managers. Managing focuses on planning, organizing, staffing, and controlling, whereas leadership emphasizes the general influence process.[12]

2.1 Major characteristics of a leader

According to the trait approach traits can be divided into general qualities and task accomplishment qualities that a leader needs to have. ”The general traits are: self-confidence, humility, core self-evaluation, trustworthiness, authenticity, extraversion, assertiveness, enthusiasm, optimism, warmth, sense of humour“.[13]

These qualities help to build good relationship with employees as well as to persuade, to influence and to lead. With his self-confidence a leader gives strength to his followers, provides a secure atmosphere and encourages employees to be involved in the process. ”Task accomplishment traits are the following: passion for the work and people, courage, internal locus of control.“[14]

Emotional intelligence that consists of four major parts - self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and social skills - was emphasized as very important characteristics by Goleman.[15] Goleman studied 181 management competence models drawn from 121 organisations worldwide and indicated that 67 % of abilities deemed essential for management competence. The heart of emotional intelligence for him was self-awareness.“[16] Because leaders can settle behaviour patterns acting in a special way, it is important that a leader is optimistic, confident and goal oriented. ”As moods are contagious the moods of a leader can influence the whole team till the last bottom-line worker”, wrote John Welsh in his book Wining (2005) where he emphasized that leaders should exude positive energy, energize others, reward and teach followers. He also believed that leaders should invent future, instead of focusing on what has been done in the past.“[17]

Katz suggested the Three Basic Personal Skills approach for effective leadership and insisted on differentiation between skills and traits because skills can be accomplished whereas traits are what the leaders are.[18] Thus, he defined skills as the ability to use one’s knowledge and competencies to accomplish a set of goals or objectives. Katz‘ Three Basic Skills approach included: technical skills, human skills and conceptual skills.

Zenger, Folkman and Edinger offered a model for analyzing the inspiring leadership which is quite close to Katz’ approach and consists out of three elements such as attributes, behaviours and emotions. Attributes address such set of qualities as role model, change champion and initiative. Six most typical behaviours of inspiring leaders are defined as: stretch goals, clear vision, communication, developing people, teamwork and innovation. Emotions address leader’s ability to connect with people.[19] This model seems to have the attributes of both Katz’ and Goleman’s approach because it unites the inborn characteristics, emotional intelligence and acquired skills.

Conceptual skills play a significant role for leadership as they help a leader to create a vision, to make a strategic plan for organisation. The higher the managers’ position the greater the meaning of both human and conceptual skills for him.[20] When a leader has charisma - it is an additional advantage, but not every leader has it. A visionary leader shares his vision with followers and can motivate them to move towards his vision that finally becomes theirs.

In order to do so, a visionary or a charismatic leader has the ability to connect with people. This ability, argue some scholars, cannot be learned, whereas others say it can be learned. To connect means to inspire people to go new ways. In their article on inspiring leadership, Zenger, Folkman and Edinger presented six types of inspiring leaders as well as features that each type of these leaders has in order to create emotional connection.[21] The classification was made after analysis of 1,000 most inspiring and motivating leaders out of 10,000 candidates. Six types of highly inspiring leaders are:

- The enhancers
- The enthusiasts
- The experts
- The visionaries
- The principled
- The drivers

This approach suggests that using not only one, but different approaches will highly increase a leader’s ability to be inspiring for the followers and make emotional connection.[22] It seems though that a leader doesn’t make a rational choice which approach to apply. He rather acts intuitively according to his character and temperament and can display qualities of different types of inspiring leader. Being the driver a leader can also be the enthusiast, if motivation and enthusiasm is what his followers need at the moment.

To sum up characteristics that are important for a leader, two main areas must be mentioned: emotional intelligence and conceptual or visionary skills. At the top is credibility. In a study of Kouzes and Posner with thirty thousand leaders was figured out that leader’s most important quality is credibility.[23] If someone wants to be a leader in a team, his or her actions must be consistent with his or her words.

2.2 Leadership styles and roles

The role of a leader in the change process was studied in depth, and, as a result, several major theories with different perspectives appeared. Green and Cameron offer a detailed overview of different theories on leader’s roles in the change process, including O’Neill’s four key roles, that are advocate, change agent, implementer and sponsor, as well as Senge’ three types of leaders, that are local line, executive and network.[24] The idea to have different types of leaders seems to be very helpful in a complex change process, and if a leader can provide strong types of leaders in different parts of the organization the change has a much better chance to succeed. Also Senge provides the valuable awareness that a change can’t succeed if done top down, it should take place within the organisation.[25] His view on leader’s role warns about depending on a hero leader. “It means that there is a vicious circle because a search for a new CEO starts with a crisis, then a new CEO comes that makes some short term changes in cost reduction and productivity improvement. The employees start to please a new CEO and start to comply rather than work on challenging the status quo and thus a new crisis occurs.”[26] He argues that one or two people at the top of organisation can’t tackle the enormous range of problems. Senge introduced three types of leader: local line, executive and network leaders. Senge recognised the necessity of interaction between all three types, but in reality communication between three types of leaders often fails which makes a change process fail.

2.2.1 Goleman’s six leadership styles

Depending on the situation, a leader can apply different leadership styles. The issue of leadership styles was thoroughly studied by Goleman, he classified the leadership styles into six groups.[27]

Table 1: Six leadership styles according to Goleman

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

To choose an appropriate style isn’t easy and often leaders are not even aware of different styles and use only one or two styles. As a consequence, their leading effectiveness is stiff and they can’t lead to their full potential.

2.2.2 Situational leadership

Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey suggested that there is no ideal leadership style, and that leaders must adapt their style depending on the situation. Their model dates back to late 1960s and lets to analyze the needs of the situation and suggests an appropriate leadership style according to the development level of the "follower". This model is considered to be the most applied one in a business world because it is easy to use. According to Blanchard & Hersey leaders can vary their emphasis according to task, what is in contrast to Fiedler’s theory of situational leadership that says that leadership style is hard to change.[28] The model of Blanchard and Hersey will later be used for analysis of Carlos Ghosn leadership style during the Nissan’s U-turn.


[1] Baumgärtner, Stephanie; Horz, Claudia; Klein, Uwe: Transformationsmanagement. Rennstrategien für erfolgreiche Veränderungen, in: Zeitschrift Führung+Organization, 82. Jahrgang, 1/2013, p. 54

[2] Bass, Bernhard M.; Bass, Ruth: The Bass Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research, and Managerial Applications. 2008, p. 6

[3] Compare to Bass, B.; Bass R. 2008, p. 6

[4] Northhouse, Peter: Leadership: Theory and Practice. 2010, p. 26

[5] Compare to Northhouse, P. 2010, p. 5

[6] Compare to Sadler, Philip: Leadership. 2003, p. 5

[7] Compare to Sadler, P. 2003, p. 5

[8] Compare to Bass, B. 2008, p. 6

[9] Compare to Bass, B. 2008, p. 6

[10] Compare to Northhouse, P. 2010, p. 4

[11] Compare to Maxwell, John: Developing a Leader Within You. 1993, p. 2

[12] Compare to Northhouse, P. 2010, p. 6

[13] Compare to Du Brin, Andrew J.: Research, Findings, Practice and Skills. 2012, p. 38

[14] Du Brin, A. 2012, p. 63

[15] Compare to Cameron, Eather; Green, Mike: Making Sense of Change Management. 2009, p.165

[16] Compare to Cameron, E.; Green, M. 2009, p.165

[17] Shriberg, Arthur; Shriberg, David: Practicing Leadership Principles and Applications. 2010, p. 71

[18] Compare to Northhouse, P. 2010, p. 40

[19] Compare to Zenger, J.; Folkman, J.; Edinger, S.: Unlocking the Mystery of Inspiring Leadership, in: The ASTD Leadership Handbook. 2010, p. 260-262

[20] Northhouse, P. 2010, p. 41

[21] Zenger, J.; Folkman, J.; Edinger, S. 2010, p. 262

[22] Zenger, J.; Folkman, J.; Edinger, S. 2010, p. 263

[23] Huszczo, Gregory E.: Tools for Team Leadership: Delivering the X-Factor in Team Excellence. 2010, p. 42

[24] Compare to Cameron, E.; Green, M. 2009, p. 153

[25] Compare to Cameron, E.; Green, M. 2009, p. 154 f.

[26] Compare to Cameron, E.; Green, M. 2009, p. 153

[27] Compare to Cameron, E.; Green, M. 2009, p. 160

[28] Leadership. A Leader Lives in Each of Us. Internet: http://higheredbcs.wiley.com/legacy/college/schermerhorn/0471734608/module16/module1.pdf, 19.04.2013


Type of Edition
ISBN (Softcover)
File size
1.9 MB
Publication date
2014 (February)
Leadership Transformational change Change Management Organisational Change


Olga Bieck, MBA, was born in 1977 in Minsk, Belarus. After studying foreign languages and economy at the State Linguistic University in her home country, she moved to Germany in 2001. She graduated the Marburg University in 2007 with a Master's degree in Media and English Literature. After that she worked for a local newspaper Mannheimer Morgen as well as in international market research where she could learn the industrial global players. While working in international marketing the started her third degree: Master of Business Administration at the ESB Business School. Due to her multi lingual background and working experience in international marketing she put her focus on international management techniques and leadership. She was fascinated by the fact that some managers get hopeless companies out of debt pile in a very short period of time whereas the others manage to ruin one hundred years proved business even sooner. What is important for creating successful frame for running international business and which qualities and competences are necessary for a leader to guarantee long lasting company’s growth was demonstrated by her on example of the famous Japanese car maker Nissan.

Title: Back on track! Successful management techniques to get a company out of debt pile
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74 pages