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Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership

Teaching Materials & Development

Cases, case series, and practitioner articles provide a real-world context for learning the skills of leadership.

Cases on Leader Character

Leadership and Scandal in John Tory's Toronto

Gerard Seijts

May 28, 2024

On February 10, 2023, Toronto mayor John Tory stunned the city by holding an evening press conference to announce his resignation. Tory admitted to having an inappropriate relationship with a junior staff member in his office. While Toronto city council scrambled to deal with the fallout of Tory’s abrupt announcement, public opinion about it was deeply divided. From politicians to pundits to the general public, it seemed everyone had something to say about Tory stepping down as mayor and the reason why he did so. In the absence of clear rules and regulations, what should Tory have done? Was his resignation, as some said, too hasty? Or was he correct to step down?

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A Journey to Washington, DC

Gerard Seijts, Vania Sakelaris

November 14, 2023

The case highlights the courage, tenacity, and drive of a young woman pursuing her law degree part-time while working full-time in a financial role in Maryland. She applied to a posting for a government relations role in her parent company’s head office in Washington, D.C. The job involved advocacy work with members of the US Congress, which aligned with her interests even though it was intended for candidates several levels above her current role. However, given her interest in the opportunity, she reached out directly to the hiring executive, bypassing her manager and circumventing her organization’s standard human resources processes and protocols. She left the call with a request for an interview, although she thought that it could result in either a rapid climb or a painful fall from grace with reputational risk, which could impact her future career. Time would soon tell.

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DuroVac (A): Responsible Leadership and Governance for Human Flourishing

DuroVac (B): Organizational Resilience and Sustained Excellence in VUCA Conditions

Elena Antonacopoulou, R. Chandrasekhar

October 20, 2023

A business world characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) presents many leadership and governance challenges to businesses large and small. Smaller family firms, in particular, need to demonstrate resilience both in navigating changes that arise from VUCA conditions and in staying firm on the core purpose with which their enterprises were founded. Cases A and B present the approach of a family firm based in Toronto, Canada, that manufactures and markets industrial vacuum systems. The cases provide an opportunity for instructors to convey the trials and tribulations faced by the founder and his successor in building a purpose-driven organization and in staying on the committed path of responsible leadership and governance.

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A Study in Grey: Lisa LaFlamme’s Dismissal from CTV News

Gerard Seijts, Jana Seijts, Lindsay Hobbs

September 15, 2023

Lisa LaFlamme was the trusted face of CTV National News. In 2022, she was at the height of her career. It was therefore a shock to her colleagues and viewers when, on August 15, 2022, she posted a video on Twitter to announce that she had been abruptly ousted from CTV by its parent company, Bell Media Inc. (Bell Media). Bell Media was hit with seemingly never-ending waves of negative press, including speculation that sexism and ageism had been the reasons behind LaFlamme’s ousting. The choice to get rid of LaFlamme, and the manner in which that choice was exercised, had lasting negative effects that Bell Media surely had not anticipated. Looking back, was replacing LaFlamme unequivocally the wrong choice? Or could it have been handled in a way that would have prevented such backlash?

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Anglogold Ashanti: Navigating Pathways in the Face of Challenge

Gerard Seijts, Vania Sakelaris

April 21, 2022

The chief financial officer (CFO) of AngloGold Ashanti Limited (AngloGold Ashanti), one of the world’s largest gold mining companies, had for one year served as the company’s interim chief executive officer (CEO). In the summer of 2021, she accepted an invitation to speak at a luncheon for young female business leaders in the mining industry prior to learning of the unsuccessful outcome of her attempt to secure the permanent CEO position. The company had just announced that a man and seasoned CEO from Colombia would be assuming the role. She now found herself struggling with how to best position her message of inspiration to the young leaders, given the personal impact of the outcome of the CEO search. As a values-based leader, she acknowledged the importance of delivering a message of hope to the aspiring leaders, as well as the importance of honouring her own values. The outcome of her application for the permanent CEO position had also left her with the decision of whether to stay with or leave the organization.

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Defining Capitalism’s Character: Tom Peters versus McKinsey

Gerard Seijts, William Thomas Watson

March 25, 2022

In early 2021, McKinsey & Company (McKinsey) agreed to pay US$573 million to end US state-level investigations into claims that it had helped exacerbate the global opioid crisis. Tom Peters, an influential and highly respected management guru, was upset by how far his former employer had been willing to go in helping US drug maker Purdue Pharma LP increase sales of OxyContin, a narcotic-based painkiller that helped drive an opioid epidemic responsible for hundreds of thousands of tragic deaths. As far as Peters was concerned, there was no question as to whether what McKinsey did was wrong: it had ignored the “moral responsibility of business” by helping an unethical client maximize profit by aggressively promoting the wide-scale use of a highly addictive drug. In addition to asking why McKinsey was still open for business, Peters posed a previously unimaginable question: “At this moment in time, why would anyone want to go to work for McKinsey?”

Winner of the EFMD Global 2023 Case Writing Competition, Responsible Leadership, sponsored by Cork University Business School.

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Hidden Figures: Leadership Lessons from the Movie

Gerard Seijts, Ann Frost

September 30, 2021

The exercise directs students to watch specific scenes from the movie Hidden Figures, which is loosely based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly that tells the story of three African American women who were mathematicians working at the Langley Research Center in Virginia in the 1960s. The women encountered racism and sexism as they attempted to contribute to the Center’s work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its space race with the Soviet Union. The clips assigned to students for viewing portray moments of leadership in the story of the three Black women who were considered “human computers.” The students are expected to view the assigned clips and consider how the scenes portray leadership and what character dimensions the actors demonstrate in their roles.

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Tracy Edwards and Maiden (A-F)

Tracy Edwards, Gerard Seijts, Ann Frost

June 22, 2021

In 1989, Tracy Edwards, at age 26, led the first all-female crew in the prestigious and grueling 59,264-kilometre (32,000 nautical mile) Whitbread Round the World Race. Edwards had developed a deep love for sailing in general and for the Whitbread Round the World Race in particular. However, she soon found that it was impossible, as a woman, to participate as a fully integrated member of a crew. Hence, she sought to organize an all-female team to compete in the race. She located, bought, and restored an old racing yacht, which eventually was christened Maiden. The idea of a team of women racing in the Whitbread Round the World Race was unthinkable to many men in and around the world of yacht racing, so the backlash was predictable and intense, and the hurdles to successfully complete the race seemed insurmountable. This six-part case series chronicles the myriad challenges faced by Edwards and her colleagues before and during the race, including rampant sexism and misogyny. Each of the six cases sets the stage for the next challenge Edwards has to overcome.

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Forensic Services at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Gerard Seijts, Lauren Iuliani

May 19, 2021

In the summer of 2019, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital, found itself at the centre of a high-profile media crisis after three patients absconded from care at its forensic mental health unit. The events had led to public concern from the community, the media, and the government, putting CAMH’s reputation at risk. Much of the concern manifested through stigmatizing statements due to a common misunderstanding and ignorance towards mental health, especially in the forensic area. CAMH’s chief executive officer, Dr. Catherine Zahn, and her team had to decide how they would address the crisis both externally with the public and internally in their own organization.

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Dr. Bonnie Henry: Contending with COVID-19 in Visible Minority Communities

Benjamin Bigio, Jana Seijts, Gerard Seijts

August 22, 2021

Honorable Mention; DEI Global Case Writing Competition. COVID-19 had been one of the deadliest pandemics ever seen, causing nearly two million deaths and 100 million cases worldwide. With no vaccine in sight for the public until at least January 2021, Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer of British Columbia (BC), had to steer the Canadian province through the COVID-19 pandemic. Had Dr. Henry overlooked the implications that factors such as ethnicity, language, and race had for the fight against COVID-19? Public health messaging destined for racialized and diverse communities was inherently complex, and social media had already erupted with posts from many frustrated members of visible minority communities. Dr. Henry wondered what communications strategy, if any, should be urgently set in motion to help curb the increase in COVID-19 cases. Who should the communications strategy target? What message should be delivered and through what channels? The lives of BC residents were in Dr. Henry's hands.

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