Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Recycled Railroads

This link tells the story of a major American railroad company purchasing a $15 million contract for recycled plastic railroad ties.  The ties are purchased from Axiom International, which focuses on innovative ways to use recycled plastics for durable, eco-friendly products.  With this contract, Axiom can expand their operations and hopefully develop many new products with this technology.

Axiom's co-founder, Chief Technology Officer, and leader is James Kerstein, and his leadership style is probably essential to the vision of Axiom.  Axiom's business model relies on innovation with products that by nature are not generally thought of as being constructed from recycled material, so for followers to follow Kerstein's vision takes a very specific type of leader.

So what type of leader would Kerstein need to be to thrive with his given situation?  According to Path Goal theory, Kerstein would need to exhibit achievement oriented leadership.  Path-goal theory offers four different types of leadership, which are directive, supportive, participative, and achievement oriented.  It then measures several different types of subordinate characteristics, and then measures task characteristics.  Path-goal theory claims that leaders need to choose a leadership style that best suits the subordinates and their tasks.

Kerstein should practice achievement oriented leadership for two reasons.  First, the subordinates he leads have high expectations and a need to excel.  They need to create innovative, cost-efficient, and high-quality products from plastics and polymers that are rather revolutionary, so subordinates are definitely challenged and need to have a sense of confidence to achieve their goals.  Second, the tasks are rather ambiguous and challenging.  The level of innovation required to satisfy market needs in terms of products that currently are not thought of as being green is extraordinarily high.  As a result, tasks are very complex, and subordinates need to be challenged and have confidence that their efforts will lead to better results.  These facts all say that Kerstein would need to be achievement oriented.

What do you think Kerstein needs to do from a leadership standpoint?  Can this organization be a trailblazer for other industrial products?

-Jonathan Lucento

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