SCENARIO: USING TRAITS TO SELECT A CANDIDATE
You are the director of a large social service agency that is responsible for 1,000 people. You are hiring an assistant director to handle a “new” program mandated by the state legislature in the area of day-care facilities. The agency is abolishing the old program, which had high thresholds for inclusion (e.g., fifteen or more children), loose enforcement guidelines (“provide for the safety and welfare of children in childcare custody”), and light sanctions. The new legislation has low thresholds (e.g., more than three unrelated children or a total of five children), tighter guidelines (e.g., background checks, unannounced site visits, a specification of areas to check, reporting requirements), and substantial sanctions. The assistant director's group will be far smaller than other subdivisions: approximately fifteen when fully staffed. Because of the adverse publicity that childcare abuse has received in recent years, you have recommended to the legislature that this area should report at a higher level. Three or four employees will be transferred from the old program. You have three candidates on your short list for the assistant director's position.
Instructions: Select one candidate and discuss your choice. A good answer will start with a thorough discussion of the traits, then move to a discussion of the traits held by each of the candidates.
Candidate A: Doris Miller
Doris has been with the agency for eighteen years and was the program administrator for the childcare facility regulation. It is difficult to know how much weakness in this area was the result of Doris's leadership and how much was the result of weak legislation and the cautiousness of state employees. She is moderately self-confident, responsible, hardworking, and even-tempered. She has not exhibited decisiveness or flexibility but has not worked in an environment where either was encouraged. She has not exhibited great need for achievement in the past but seems animated and goal-oriented as she seeks this position, which would be a promotion. If she does not get this job, she may be demoted because no positions in the new program are available at her level.
Candidate B: John Quintanilla
John is also an employee of the division, where he has functioned as a supervisor in child protective services. Although he has a sense of the agency, child welfare issues, and site visit regulation, he has no experience in day-care facilities. He is competent in child protective services, has not made mistakes, and has made a good name. He is extremely self-confident, decisive, energetic, and highly motivated to achieve. The only significant problem is that John is not a good team builder. He can be imperious, aggressive, and abrasive in stressful situations. He is not particularly well liked because of his self-absorption.
Candidate C: Janet Dahlerus
Janet was recruited to apply for the position from another state, which has a more highly regulated program that she administers. Janet's self-confidence, competence, and integrity seem unquestioned. She gets along well with people, although her “bureaucratic” disposition in the interview process meant that no one got to know her well. She indicated in numerous ways a lack of need to achieve and assume responsibility relative to this position. She is reluctant to move because of her husband's position. She was critical of the new legislation, demonstrating competence but failing to show enthusiasm for the new program. She expressed little flexibility since her main focus was how she could adapt her current practices to the new job. If offered the position, it is uncertain whether she will accept it.
Required Textbook: Wart, Montgomery Van, and Pamela S. Medina. (2023). Leadership in Public and Nonprofit Organizations: An Introduction. 4th ed. New York: Routledge.
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