Susan Zirinsky and Hannah Yang’s Leadership

Topic: Leadership
Words: 891 Pages: 3

Case Description

The case study is titled “What makes a leader,” a New York Times article scripted by Bennett on June 1, 2019. The author highlights the story of Susan Zirinsky concerning the path she had to follow in ascending the heights of leadership in her career. The story intertwines with that of Hannah Yang, whom Susan mentored on the verge of quitting. While Susan is at the peak of her career as the first president of CBS News, Hannah holds the position of a business executive at the New York Times (Bennett, 2019). These two share similar leadership qualities, which is the impetus for their career. They choose to deploy accessibility, an attribute that is thought of by many to be too naïve for executive leaders. This paper provides a detailed narration of the leadership of these two people and integrates theoretical analysis of their leadership model for great success.

While Ms. Susan was the chief executive officer, she met Hannah, who thought leaders were too busy to access. Susan gave Hannah her time and valuable advice to pursue a career in media. Hannah appreciates that Susan was too available for her after she had achieved great success in pursuit of her dreams. Aziz et al. (2021) argue that leaders are mandated to make strategic decisions for the sustainability of businesses. While talking about gender and leadership, Susan reckons that women leaders face challenges that men are unlikely to face. Susan’s action in view of Aziz and his compatriots’ definition is strategic. While women deploy empathetic leadership styles, including availability, they are considered weak and naïve. On the other hand, they are thought to be manipulative and controlling when they deploy aggressive leadership styles (Bennett, 2019). The author suggests that deploying both leadership traits is fundamental to achieving career success.

Different research findings dictate that many leaders have mastered the art of utilizing diverse leadership styles, yet a combination of styles is sufficient. Most of these people with the skills and the abilities to execute a combination of these leadership qualities are women. Research shows that women took half of the jobs lost by men. Part of the women who took the positions of men includes Christiane Amanpour of PBS and Jennifer Salke of Amazon Studios (Bennett, 2019; Tahan, 2021). The excellence of women in leadership is attributed to their mastery of soft skills, including compassion, calm, and patience.

Theoretical Interpretation of the Case

Explanation of the Theory

Several theories explain leadership and organizational change. One such theory is the contingency theory of leadership by White and Hodgson. This leadership theory is particular to specific attributes of leadership related to the environment. It stipulates that no theory best suits all aspects of leadership and management. According to this theory, excellence is achieved by balancing context, behaviors, and needs (Like, 2019). The authors of this theory argue that good leaders are those in a position to assess the needs of the organization, clients, and employees, to which end they adjust their behaviors accordingly. Of all the theories of leadership, the theory of contingency in explaining organizational change and leadership is the most thorough and elaborate.

According to the contingency theory of leadership, a leader’s success depends on whether or not their management approach is appropriate for the given circumstance. This notion contends that a person might be a successful leader in one situation while failing miserably in another. Consequently, a leader should be able to assess each circumstance and determine whether their leadership style will be helpful or not if they want to increase their chances of becoming a successful leader (Like, 2019). Leaders must typically be self-aware, objective, and flexible to do this. Given the explanations of the aspects of this theory, all forms of leadership can be explained, should the style fail its purposes or not.

How the Theory Can Explain the Case

In the case study in question, the leadership styles deployed by Susan and Hannah are responsible for the great success that they have achieved in their career. While people thought that the leadership quality of being accessible was naïve, Susan did not think so (Bennett, 2019). Through carefully analyzing the needs of her employees, she was able to listen to Hannah, who, at the time, desperately needed it. The results are that Hannah’s successful career lay on the shoulder of the intervention of Susan’s leadership. The contingency theory aligns with the leadership style of Susan to bring organizational transformation. The theory demands that a good leader assesses a situation and deploys a quality that bests suits the situation (Like, 2019). Arguably, Susan is a good leader according to this theory. Her fast-track advancements into positions of influence are thus justified.

In the second part of the case study, the authors dictate that women excel in leadership in the present world because they can strike a balance between aggressive and bossy qualities and empathetic qualities. Notably, unlike male employees, they utilize either bossy or empathetic qualities when desired (Bennett, 2019). The contingency theory explains that no leadership style can handle all organizational situations (Like, 2019). Theorists explain that a leader is to determine which quality they are to apply to achieve success. It is no surprise that women leaders are taking over the corporate world in leadership to foster organizational transformation because they adhere to this principle.


Aziz, N., Mat, T. Z. T., Zainuddin, Z. N., & Bhana, A. (2021). The influence of leadership style on the strategic decision in response to organizational change. Environment-Behaviour Proceedings Journal, Home/Archives, 6(17). Web.

Bennett, J. (2019). What makes a leader? The New York Times. Web.

Like, L. (2019). Leadership theories. Norbert Boruett-Innovating in Medical Education. Web.

Tahan, L. (2021). # MeToo Movement: A Sociological Analysis of Media Representations. Web.

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