Present Value: Lynn Perry Wooten on navigating the leadership stage

By: Present Value Podcast Team
Dean Lynn Wooten

Present Value, an independent editorial project produced and hosted by Johnson students, had the pleasure of interviewing Lynn Perry Wooten, the David J. Nolan dean and professor of management and organizations for Cornell University’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.

Present Value can be streamed on the Present Value website, or you can subscribe through Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app by searching for “Present Value Cornell.”

Leaders need a certain skill set to navigate crisis

In her first episode with Present Value, Wooten defines a crisis as an “unusual event that doesn’t happen often” which will negatively impact reputation and performance if not addressed. Leaders need to have a set of leadership competencies in order to navigate the crisis, she says. While communication during the crisis is important, leaders must also understand what the crisis is and then, after the communication plan is created, they need to follow through on it. In the end, they must be able to effectively learn from the crisis.

Wooten points out some organizations that dealt with crises effectively, specifically Chipotle (which coped with food contamination issues) and Emory University’s Healthcare System (which handled Ebola patients). In addition, Wooten also discusses leaders who did not react effectively during a crisis. According to Wooten, leaders who are in denial of the problem, who don’t show compassion and sympathy, and who don’t have a vision for navigating the crisis exacerbate the situation.

Researching discrimination in the workplace

Wooten has researched workplace diversity practices, including company practices towards employees with disabilities, and she acknowledges that there are certain types of internal discrimination that organizations tend to ignore. Rather than looking the other way, leaders must acknowledge the different forms of discrimination that are occurring and create environments where employees can bring their “best selves,” Wooten says.

During her research, Wooten has observed that firms tend to ignore discrimination until a class action lawsuit is brought against them. Ultimately, she says, by effectively addressing workplace diversity issues, companies can create a competitive advantage.

Wooten has also researched the “glass cliff” effect—the theory that women are more likely to achieve leadership positions during times of crisis. Because they’re put in crisis situations at the onset of their term, these leaders are potentially set up for immediate failure. Wooten specifically looks at the theory in relation to African-American chief executive officers.

Positive deviant behavior brings corporate improvements

Wooten also discusses her research on positive organization scholarship and positive deviant behavior. Positive deviant behavior involves actions organizations can take to move from “good to great.” She explores how organizations can foster excellence in all employees, as well as the actions organizations can take to consistently improve. According to Wooten, organizations that foster “good HR practices” and focus on creativity and innovation, among other factors, demonstrate positive deviant behaviors. In particular, Wooten has looked at positive deviance behavior at organizations like Wegmans, which has introduced in-store features such as burger bars at certain store locations and which maintains good human resource practices in order to empower its employees. Ultimately, positive deviant behavior can come in everyday actions, Wooten says, and can be taken on by any individual, regardless of their title or position in an organization.

Wooten expands on the above topics and more in her full-length episode of Present Value. Listen, subscribe, and share!

About Lynn Perry Wooten

Lynn Perry Wooten is the David J. Nolan dean of the Dyson School and professor of management and organizations. Her research interests include crisis leadership, positive organizing routines, strategic human resource management, and workforce diversity and competitive advantage. She is co-author of  the book Leading Under Pressure: From Surviving to Thriving Before, During and After a Crisis (Routledge, 2010), which explores the role pressure plays in crisis leadership. Wooten has taught such courses as corporate strategy, knowledge management, organizational behavior, and consulting. She holds a master’s of business administration from Duke University and a doctorate in business administration from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

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Present Value Podcast Team

The Present Value podcast team of contributing authors highlights new episodes. Current contributors in the MBA Class of 2021 include Alex Vorwald, Paul Witko, and Maria Castex.

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  1. Where did Dr. Perry attend undergraduate school?

  2. Dean Wooten received a bachelor’s in accounting in 1988 from North Carolina A&T University, an MBA in 1990 from Duke University and a doctorate in business administration in 1995 from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

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