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Qualities of Darwin E. Smith as a Leader

In 1981, a seemingly ordinary man named Darwin E. Smith was named chief executive of Kimberly-Clark, a stodgy old paper company whose stock had fallen 36% behind the general market over the previous 20 years. Smith, the company’s mild-mannered in-house lawyer, wasn’t so sure the board had made the right choice a feeling that was reinforced when a Kimberly-Clark director pulled him aside and reminded him that he lacked some of the qualifications for the position. But CEO he was, and CEO he remained for 20 years.

What a 20 years it was. In that period, Smith created a stunning transformation at Kimberly-Clark, turning it into the leading consumer paper-products company in the world. Under his stewardship, the company beat its rivals Scott Paper and Procter & Gamble. And in doing so, Kimberly-Clark generated cumulative stock returns that were 4.1 times greater than those of the general market, outperforming venerable companies such as Hewlett-Packard, 3M, Coca-Cola, and General Electric. As noted in a Harvard Business Review article, Kimberly-Clark is one of eleven companies on the Fortune 500 since 1975 that has been elevated from good to great and has maintained its transformed status. Mr. Smith was recognized for making this accomplishment possible.


Mr. Smith achieved this transformation by building strength within the company. He redefined and raised corporate goals. To reach this end he persistently examined the company’s leadership group, winnowing those who did not meet his specifications and promoting those who did. Mr. Smith also increased the geographical diversification of Kimberly-Clark’s facilities. The emphasis he placed on consumer products was exemplified by the money he allotted to research and development ($111 million in 1987) and his decision not to give up on the fledgling diaper business, against much opposition. His vision helped lead HUGGIES® diapers to its rank as the number 1 brand in the country today.


Additionally, he strengthened the company’s position in the tissue segment of the paper industry, pushing both Kimberly-Clark and its competitors to improve and strengthen their tissue technology and facilities. The financial strength of the industry’s tissue segment today is testament to his efforts. During Mr. Smith’s tenure as chairman and chief executive officer, Kimberly-Clark stockholders experienced returns of 19.6% annually, generating cumulative stock returns that were 4.1 times greater than those of the general market and outperforming venerable companies including industry rivals. It had been a welcomed change from the 20 years prior when Kimberly-Clark stock had fallen 36% behind the general market. 

Nature of Leadership Style Exhibited by Darwin E. Smith


Mr. Smith was the type of leader who gave credit for success to the employees, the managers, his predecessors, and the customers. Smith’s turnaround of Kimberly-Clark is one of the best examples in the twentieth century of a leader taking a company from merely good to truly great. Smith is an individual who blends extreme personal humility with intense professional will. According to a five-year research study, executives who possess this paradoxical combination of traits are catalysts for the statistically rare event of transforming a good company into a great one. Darwin Smith was identified as the one who has the highest level in a hierarchy of executive capabilities in the research. Leaders at the other levels in the hierarchy can produce high degrees of success, but not enough to elevate companies from mediocrity to sustained excellence.

Darwin Smith’s leadership qualities not only transformed a good company into a great one but he was able to get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus and creating a culture of discipline. Good-to-great transformations don’t happen without Level 5 leaders at the helm. They just don’t.


Level 5 leadership is counterintuitive. Indeed, it is counter-cultural. People generally assume that transforming companies from good to great requires larger-than-life leaders big personalities like Iacocca, Dunlap, Welch, and Gault, who make headlines and become celebrities. Compared to those CEOs, Darwin Smith seems to have come from Mars. Shy, unpretentious, even awkward, Smith shunned attention.

When a journalist asked him to describe his management style, Smith just stared back at the scribe from the other side of his thick black-rimmed glasses. He was dressed unfashionably, like a farm boy wearing his first J.C. Penney suit. Finally, after a long and uncomfortable silence, he said: “Eccentric.” Needless to say, the Wall Street Journal did not publish a splashy feature on Darwin Smith. 


But if you were to consider Smith to be soft or meek, you would be terribly mistaken. His lack of pretence was coupled with a fierce, even stoic, resolve toward life. Smith grew up on an Indiana farm and put himself through night school at Indiana University by working the day shift at International Harvester. One day, he lost a finger on the job. The story goes that he went to class that evening and returned to work the very next day. Eventually, this poor but determined Indiana farm boy earned admission to Harvard Law School. 

Skills Required to Be a Leader Like Darwin E. Smith


He showed the same iron will as CEO of Kimberly-Clark. Indeed, two months after Smith became CEO, doctors diagnosed him with nose and throat cancer and told him he had less than a year to live. He duly informed the board of his illness but said he had no plans to die anytime soon. Smith held to his demanding work schedule while commuting weekly from Wisconsin to Houston for radiation therapy. He lived 25 more years, 20 of them as CEO. 


Smith’s ferocious resolve was crucial to the rebuilding of Kimberly-Clark, especially when he made the most dramatic decision in the company’s history: sell the mills. Shortly after he took over, Smith and his team had concluded that the traditional core business coated paper was doomed to mediocrity. Its economics were bad and the competition weak. But, they reasoned, if Kimberly-Clark was thrust into the fire of the consumer paper-products business, better economics and world-class competition like Procter & Gamble would force it to achieve greatness or perish. 


And so, like the general who burned the boats upon landing on enemy soil, leaving his troops to either succeed or die, Smith announced that Kimberly-Clark would sell its mills even the namesake mill in Kimberly, Wisconsin. All proceeds would be thrown into the consumer business, with investments in brands like Huggies diapers and Kleenex tissues.

The business media called the move stupid, and Wall Street analysts quickly downgraded the stock. But Smith never wavered. Twenty-five years later, Kimberly-Clark owned Scott Paper and beat Procter & Gamble in six of eight product categories. In retirement, Smith reflected on his exceptional performance by saying simply, “I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job.”

Question 1:

From your understanding of Darwin Smith, in the case study, brief his qualities as a Leader.

Question 2:

Leaders are Born / Leaders are Made.  Justify your understanding From your analysis of the personality of Darwin Smith,

Question 3:

What in your understanding is the nature of the leadership style exhibited by Darwin Smith ?

Question 4:

What are the types of skills that will be required of a person to be a leader, if one has to be in the genre of Darwin Smith?

Question 5:

Is it possible in today’s context to have leadership qualities possessed by Darwin E. Smith?

Assignment 2

The Reluctant Executive: Sustainability, Surfing, and Leadership Style at Patagonia:

Yvon Chouinard was an accomplished mountain climber in the 1960’s,successfully ascending Peaks throughout the world. To support his climbing activities, he began selling mountaineering equipment out of the back of his car. This endeavour evolved into Chouinard Equipment, a full? service climbing gear manufacturing and sales operation located in Ventura, California.

Leadership: Born or Made? Analysis of Darwin E. Smith's Personality

Chouinard increased sales volume by importing rugby shirts, gloves, hats, and other clothing From Europe and New Zealand. Soon, the focus turned to manufacturing clothing, and in 1973 the Patagonia clothing company was born. The business struggled at first, but by themid?1980s sales began to increase, growing from$20million to over $100million by 1990.

Today, sales volume at Patagonia is around $250million per year, and the company makes a wide range of products from outdoor clothing and travel gear to fishing equipment. Chouinard never aspired to be an executive, but he soon found himself facing business challenges as the founder and owner of an expanding company.

Despite the growth, he held fast to the values of teamwork and camaraderie he had enjoyed as a mountaineer. Employees at Patagonia dress as they please (often in t?shirts and shorts, sitting barefoot at their desks); surf when the conditions at nearby beaches are good (the daily surf report is prominently displayed in the lobby of the corporate headquarters, and employees can take advantage of the liberal flex time policies); and enjoy company?sponsored ski and climbing trips; a cafeteria serving high quality, healthy food (including a wide range of vegetarian options); a subsidized on?site day care center; and the option to take leave of absence from work for up to two months at a non?profit of their choice, while still receiving their full pay from Patagonia.

These benefits make the company a highly desirable place of employment—on average some 900 people apply for every open position.  The company is highly committed to environmental causes and a corporate philosophy to “do no harm.” Chouinard and each of Patagonia’s 1,200 employees try to make decisions based on the impact that will be felt 100 years from now. That approach requires asking tough questions about manufacturing processes and making the right choices, even if production costs increase.

In the early 1990s,for example, an environmental audit revealed that the chemicals commonly used for growing and harvesting cotton made it one of the most damaging fibers used by Patagonia. Cotton farming, Chouinard discovered, consumes 25 percent of the world’s pesticides on just 3 percent  of the world’s farmland. As a result, the company switched its entire product line to organic cotton, a decision that ultimately improved profitability.

More recently Patagonia decided to shift from the traditional kind of polyester used to make its fleece jackets to a new type of polyester made from recycled soda pop bottles. It takes 25 soda bottles from land fills to make a jacket; between 1993 and 2003 Patagonia diverted 86million soda bottles from landfills.

How does Chouinard lead the company and drive this environmental mission? Through a hands?on directive approach? No, he uses what he calls his MBA theory—management by absence.  Chouinard travels the globe developing and testing Patagonia products and serving as a crusader for environmental issues. To run his business, he hires employees who will question authority—challenging bad decisions and working with others to seek out the best solution.

As he explains, “the best democracy exists when decisions are made through consensus…decisions based on compromise often leave the problem not completely solved with both sides feeling cheated or unimportant.” And the most effective leaders, Chouinard argues, are those who can communicate their ideas to others, not via email, but by talking face?to?face to work out collaborative agreements.

To support this democratic approach, there are no private offices at Patagonia—everyone works in open rooms with no doors or separations. When Chouinard is at the Patagonia headquarters, he does not have a reserved parking spot(such spots are reserved for those who drive fuel?efficient cars) or special perks or office space; he considers himself no more important than others in the organization.

Such treatment would only damage the democratic spirit of the company. Chouinard believes, “find the right balance between the management problems that come with growth and maintaining our philosophy of hiring independent?minded people and trusting them with responsibility is the key to Patagonia’s Success.

Question 1:

What in your understanding is the nature and personality of Yvon Chouinard?

Question 2:

Do you feel it is possible to become a leader when confronted with situations?  What are the skills required of a person to become a leader?

Question 3:

What are the situations and factors that are to be taken into account, if one were to exhibit the leadership quality exhibited by Yvon Chouinard?

Question 4:

In today’s globalized, competitive world, do you feel the leadership practices followed by Yvon can be applied?

Question 5:

What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantage of following Yvon’s leadership approach?

Qualities of Darwin E. Smith as a Leader

Every leader possesses specific qualities that assist in leadership. A leader attains high passion, will power, managerial skills, motivation, dedication, and shares success with his/her followers. He showed high persistence in following the traits. This section mainly focuses on leadership qualities of Darwin Smith.

According to the given case, Darwin Smith attains immense leadership qualities. Similarly, Mr Smith was a passionate leader. Despite, being diagnosed with nose and throat cancer, the dedication towards the work do not minimized. With his high will power, he had transformed the Kimberly- Clark into a leading business entity. He was a symbol of motivation as once he lost his finger but did not give up. He was highly dedicated towards his duty and had served the Kimberly-Clarks for more than 20 years. After gaining success for ‘Kimberly –Clarks’, he dedicated the success to his work force. Thus, he has the quality of sharing success.

He is persistent in his duty, as he keeps only those employees that fulfil his requirement. He did not settle for less as had brought the Kimberly Clarks to greater heights of success. For example, Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple Inc.) is one of the recognized leaders as he is inbuilt with leadership qualities like high will power, motivation, and managerial skills. As a true leader, he aims for excellence, exceptional performance and develops unity and integrity (Rashid, 2017).

The above discussion states that Darwin Smith possessed various leadership qualities. Therefore, it is concluded that he was a true leader.

Great leaders are born. They are inbuilt with leadership qualities. The discussion mention below emphasized on the statement of ‘great leader are born’.

After assessing the personality of Darwin Smith, it states that leaders are born. Similarly, great man theory and trait theory also emphasizes that leaders are born but not made (Hyacinth, 2014). As per the given case, Mr Smith attains specific leadership from the initial age only. He studied at night school and works in the day shift. Thus, it clearly states that from the beginning he was a hardworking individual. Mr Smith once lost a finger while performing a job. However, he does not gave up and continued his schooling and job. Thus, it depicts that from the initial phase, he was dedicated and attains high motivation for his work and education. Besides that, Nelson Mandela, a revolutionary political leader depicts that great leader are born (Dhliwayo, 2017).

Nature of Leadership Style Exhibited by Darwin E. Smith

Hence, the above discussion and the example of Nelson Mandela conclude that leaders are born but not made.

A leader relies on specific leadership style to lead in an organization. The section mentioned below focuses on the nature of leadership style attained by Mr Darwin Smith.

According to the personal understanding, participative leadership style is followed by Darwin Smith. A participative leader leads its followers by setting an example rather than fear and punishment. He acts as the moderator, encourager and motivator (Murari, 2015). Similarly, Mr Smith never used the means of threat and punishment to retain best output from the subordinates. Additionally, he involves the subordinates in its work process and often gave them credit for the success of Kimberly-Clarks. Even after making ‘HUGGIES’ as the number one brand, he was free from arrogance and pride. Considering Darwin Smith example, it is justified that every leader relies on specific leadership style.

It is analyzed that Darwin Smith matches the leadership style of a participative leader. Thus, it concludes that nature of Darwin Smith leadership style is similar to participative leadership style.

Any individual following the leadership style of Mr Smith must attain the skills of a participative leadership style. The discussion mentioned below emphasize on the skills that must be possessed by an individual to be the genre of Darwin Smith.

Mr Smith motivates the subordinates to participate in the decision making process. Despite motivation, he should frame strategies for short-term participation. This will help in developing a sense of belongingness among them. He must consider the suggestions and ideas given by the individuals with low authority. Despite these qualities, he should be honest, intelligent, courageous, and creative in his work process (Snyder, 2010). For example, Jim Lentz, the CEO of Toyota North America Inc. is also one of the participative leaders as he has the similar skills including high motivation (Futureofworking, 2019).

An individual should have motivational skills, welcome ideas, thoughts and involve subordinates in the decision making process. Thus, it is concluded that possessing these qualities is must for an individual to be considered as a participative leader.

Leadership styles are largely universally accepted. This section provides an example from a real world of similar leadership qualities possessed by Darwin Smith.

It is possible to have leadership qualities possessed by Darwin E. Smith. Donald Trump is the recognized real world example that depicts similar leadership qualities. He is the current president of United States. As a business leader, he was an encouraging person to his subordinates. He considers the opinion of other individuals (with low authority) in its decision. He had nurtured various creative and innovative ideas of its subordinates. His traits make it easy for the subordinates in sharing their ideas with him. Thus, he sets a perfect example of participative leader (Hoel et al., 2010).

Skills Required to Be a Leader Like Darwin E. Smith

Hence, the example of Donald Trump clearly states that it is possible to have leadership qualities similar to Darwin Smith.

Every individual attains diverse characteristics by nature. This section provides an insight of nature and personality of Yvon Chouinard.

Similarly, Yvon Chouinard was hardworking and risk taker. He has a nature of not settling for less. He attains high concern for the ecological environment and lays prior significance in maintaining democratic spirit in the company.

Yvon Chouinard matches the leadership personality of Laissez-fair leadership style. This leadership style is characterized by offering minute guidance, high degree of freedom, power and prominence to the workforce. (Chaudhry & Husnain , 2012). For example, Yvon Chouinard has also given high liberty to its employees based on their dress code, shift timing, and working pattern. He gave equal importance to its employee, highly values its employees, by providing them a stress free work environment. For example, a recognized icon, Queen Victoria sets the example of Laissez-fair leadership style (Futureofworking, 2019).

Hence, it is concluded that Yvon Chouinard was an altruistic individual attaining the leadership personality of Laissez-fair leadership style.

This section will state that whether it is possible to become a leader when confronted with situation. It also focuses on various leadership skills essential to emerge as a leader.

By taking the example of Yvon Chouinard, it is possible to become a leader when confronted with situations. To emerge as a true leader, an individual must follow the specific leadership skills of Yvon Chouinard. Similar to Yvon, an individual should have high degree of management skills as it will assists in controlling the lower authority. He should develop teamwork and lay equal attention to each subordinate. He should have the ability of making right choices, enhancing employee morale, providing the right solution, and developing unity in the workplace.

Hence, it concluded that it is possible to become a leader when confronted with situations. Additionally, high managerial skills and ability to choose are some of the essentials to emerge as a true leader.

There are numerous factors and situations that need to consider exhibiting the leadership quality of Yvon Chouinard. This section will provide an insight of possible situations and factors that need to be considered.

In order to deliver high work liberty like Yvon, a prior attention should be given in raising hardworking employees. As they will not misuse the given freedom and will fulfils their assigned duty or responsibility within a given time frame. Thus, to exhibit the similar leadership quality, an individual must attain the leadership skills of Yvon Chouinard. Considering the example of Yvon Chouinard, it should be examined that employees attains effective and adequate knowledge to individually perform the business operation. Additionally, the current financial situation of the business entity should be studied. To adopt the similar leadership quality, a business should be in fine position.

Leadership: Born or Made? Analysis of Darwin E. Smith's Personality

Thus, the above section concludes that high consideration towards the above factors and situation will assist in exhibiting the Yvon leadership quality.

Leadership theories are mostly universally applicable. In the present globalized and competitive world, the Laissez-fair Leadership style is applicable. This section focuses on a real life example of Laissez-fair Leadership.

For example, this leadership style is followed by Mark Zuckerberg (CEOMZ, 2019). He is the founder of a well-known social media website named ‘Facebook’. He provides high degree of freedom to its employees. Its employees have the freedom to try different things. His employees performed their work in a highly relaxed environment. To be easily approachable, he had glass walls for his office. He is not precise for its employees dressing sense (Kux , 2019). Thus, Mark Zuckerberg leadership style has benefitted in raising the satisfied employees.

Hence, the given example concludes that Laissez-fair Leadership style is prevalent in current globalized world (Peck , 2019).

Every leadership style offers multiple advantages as well as disadvantages. This part emphasizes on the benefits and limitations of the Laissez-fair Leadership style.

As mentioned above, Yvon Chouinard was a follower of Laissez-fair Leadership style. This leadership style has its own pros and cons. It provides high degree of freedom to the employees, helps in enhancing the individual leadership skills, encourages new ideas, creates the environment of independence (Cherry, 2019). Considering the example of Yvon Chouinard leadership, employees experience high degree of freedom in the workplace. They dressed as per their wish. They also encounter freedom with their shift timing. As the employees individually perform their task, it enhances their knowledge and developing leadership skills among them. Chouinard employee’s experiences high benefits and results in better satisfaction level. Thus, its satisfied employees have assisted the Yvon Chouinard in building higher profits for Chouinard. Every leadership style has its cons. Similarly, Laissez-fair Leadership style drawback is that it downplays the role of the leader on the team. It allows the leader to avoiding the duties and responsibilities. It develops the possibility of high business risk. It can also be abused by employees (Kotur & Anbazhagan, n.d.). However, such shortcomings have not faced by Yvon Chouinard.

Hence, it is concluded that there are immense advantages and disadvantages of following Yvon’s Laissez-fair Leadership style.

CEOMZ, 2019. Mark Zuckerberg. [Online] Available at: https://ceomarkzuckerberg.weebly.com/leadership.html [Accessed 15 October 2019].

Chaudhry, Q. & Husnain , J., 2012. Impact of transactional and laissez faire leadership style on motivation. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 3(7).

Cherry, , 2019. Pros and Cons of Laissez-Faire Leadership. [Online] Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-laissez-faire-leadership-2795316 [Accessed 16 October 2019].

Dhliwayo, T., 2017. Reasons Why Nelson Mandela Was a Great Leader. [Online] Available at: https://medium.com/@matshonatdhliwayo/7-reasons-why-nelson-mandela-was-a-great-leader-by-matshona-dhliwayo-203fdab12b03 [Accessed 19 October 2019].

Futureofworking, 2019. 5 Famous Laissez Faire Leaders. [Online] Available at: https://futureofworking.com/5-famous-laissez-faire-leaders/ [Accessed 17 October 2019].

Futureofworking, 2019. 5 Famous Participative Leader. [Online] Available at: https://futureofworking.com/5-famous-participative-leaders/ [Accessed 17 October 2019].

Hoel , et al., 2010. Leadership styles as predictors of self?reported and observed workplace bullying. British Journal of Management, 21(2), pp.453-68.

Hyacinth, B.H., 2014. Are Leaders Born or Made? A True Story. [Online] Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141026042807-150905450-are-leaders-born-or-made-a-true-story [Accessed October 15 2019].

Kotur, R. & Anbazhagan, S., n.d.

Kux , , 2019. 10 Reasons Why 99% of Facebook Employees Love Mark Zuckerberg. [Online] Available at: https://www.lifehack.org/articles/work/10-reasons-why-99-facebook-employees-love-mark-zuckerberg.html [Accessed 15 October 2019].

Murari, , 2015. Impact of Leadership Styles on Employee Empowerment. Partridge Publishing.

Peck , , 2019. Facebook Employees Are Insanely Happy With Their Jobs. [Online] Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/facebook-employees-happy_n_56d7049ae4b0871f60ed564f?ri18n=true [Accessed 15 October 2019].

Rashid, B., 2017. Real Life Leadership Lessons From Real Life Leaders. [Online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brianrashid/2017/01/17/real-life-leadership-lessons-from-real-life-leaders/#2146cbb33ec3 [Accessed 17 October 2019].

Snyder, N., 2010. Vision, Values, and Courage: Leadership for Quality Management. Simon and Schuster.

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