Malcolm Eyes the Executive Suite

Malcolm Gupta come a family whose members include many successful business executives, including his parents. Since he was a teenager, Malcolm has been fascinated with the prospects becoming a corporate executive. In addition to more typical teenage interests, Malcolm would frequently read the business section of his local newspaper, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes. He also enthusiastically read biographies of business executives including Warren Buffet, Donald Trump, and Martha Stewart.

Malcolm studied industrial engineering as an undergraduate, thinking that such a program would give him a solid base for understanding the operations of a business. He followed up his undergraduate degree with an MBA, which an emphasis on leadership and organizational behavior. Malcolm said to himself, his family, and friends repeatedly. “I know I have what it takes to get to the corner office.”

With first-rate interpersonal skills to match his solid education, Malcolm was well received by an on-campus recruiter for a major player in the high-tech field, a manufacturer of computer equipment and services. He was chosen to a management training program in which he would be given approximately one-year assignments in several business functions. His initial assignment was as a member of a team whose purpose was to help reduce the manufacturing costs of desktop computers.

Six weeks after being assigned to the team, Malcolm informed his team leader that he was developing his skills in Mandarin Chinese, a language he had studied in college. As Malcolm explained to his team leader, “Chinese is going to help me because so much of our manufacturing is outsourced to China. And besides, a second language can only be an asset for a future executive leader.”

After about fifteen months on the team, Malcolm was appointed as the supervisor of an order-fulfillment group within a distribution center of the company within the same manufacturing complex. Upon accepting the distribution-center assignment, Malcolm told his new manager, “I will do my best to be an outstanding performer here. But I am wondering if spending time in a distribution center will really enhance my credentials for becoming an executive in this company.”

Upon completing his eighteen-month supervisory assignment, Malcolm’s performance was evaluated. His boss noted that his performance was slightly above average but that he seemed a little too focused on his career ambitions and not focused enough on the good of the company. Malcolm’s next assignment was as a team leader of a logistics group that kept track of the flow of equipment that manufactured oversees Given that about 80 percent of the company’s manufacturing was globally outsourced, logistics was highly valued at the company.

A few weeks after Malcolm began his new assignment, he met with his company assigned mentor, Jessica Magnum, a manufacturing executive. Asked how his work was going at the company, Malcolm replied: “Maybe you can help me. I’m enjoyed my work, but I think that may career is inching along, when I should be making big strides. I would like to be assigned to a strategy team, or maybe a new product development team. In this way I would get the experience and the visibility I need to move more quickly into the corner office.” Jessica responded, Malcolm, I think highly of you, but your idea of career progress is old fashioned. You need to focus more on performance than promotion.”


1. In what way is this case about leadership development?

2. What would you recommend that Malcolm do to facilitate his path to an executive position?

3. To what extent do you think Jessica’s comment is justified?