The paper discusses Amancio Ortega Gaona a rich businessman and a leader who steered Zara clothing company to success. Research has unearthed that he came from a humble background, a family that was surviving on low income. It has been discovered that the frustration and humiliation that he witnessed in a store with his mother motivated him to think on how they could come out of poverty. The motivations led to him opening his own shop and using autocratic leadership, style he managed to have an exemplary performance. This leadership style enabled him to come up with new innovative ideas that were shared down the leadership hierarchy. The paper has extensively explored on leadership skills, mentioning inclusive decision making and motivation. A recommendation has been made that as future leaders one should not be held back with background problems and that as a leader one should focus entirely on success and not ranks or leaderships positions in an organization.
Background and Motivations
Amancio Ortega Gaona was born on March 28, 1936 in a family that had four children; he was the youngest amongst his siblings. It has been confirmed that his father was a railway worker, this kind of work prompted Ortega to leave school and move to La Coruna with his father. It can be pointed out that while in La Coruna he found a job that required him to make clothes by hand. This company was called Gala and specialized in making shirts by hand; this company is still present in La Coruna. He later founded his company in 1972 that went ahead to produce bathrobes that were sold to thousands of local women. He was a renowned businessman and a leader as he was the chairman of Inditex fashion group that is well known for Zara clothing merchandise and retail shops. It is worth pointing out that in October 2015 he was ranked the world’s richest person for several hours, currently he lives with his wife in Galicia, Spain. Researchers have found out that Ortega is a down to earth person who always kept a low profile and wore simple clothes, it is affirmed that until the year 1999 no photograph of him had been published. It has been presumed that he announced his retirement from Inditex to give leadership opportunity to others by asking Pablo Isla to take his place in one of the largest company in the textile industry (Badía Enrique 29).
There were several experiences that motivated Ortega to be a leader and a businessman one being the father’s scrappy job of a railway worker. The housing was very pathetic and was described as being a row house adjoined with train tracks. On one particular day the humiliating experience that he faced when his mother was denied credit in a local store also acted as a motivating agent. This situation embarrassed and humiliated him to the extent of declaring that he would never go back to school and instead find a way of finding for his family through a readily available job.
These experiences were important and impacted positively on the personality of Ortega, when he was a teen he found a job at a local shirt making shop. On a positive note, Ortega began thinking of how he could give customers exactly when they needed to make real money. This motivated him to start thinking on making customized products for his customers using thousands of women who were left behind by their husbands who went to work at the sea. This provided capital that led to him opening his first store in 1975 and named it Zara. It has been avowed that leaders must have the desire to meet the diverse customer needs in order to be successful (Nohria et al 15).
Many leadership scholars have pointed out that Amancio Ortega was responsible for the success of Zara textile merchandise since its inception (Badía Enrique 33). This has been attributed to the fact that he was able to steer the company despite the cut-throat competition from other companies, fast changing and unpredictable environment of the fashion industry. This was due to his good leadership abilities that followed an autocratic leadership style. In this leadership style power is concentrated on the manager or leader. Under this style, it is asserted that all employees are required to report to the manager, take orders and implement the commands as given by him or her.
The strengths that are attributed to the leadership style used by Ortega include motivating and rewarding the leader as it ensures that work activities are done according to his directions. It also ensures quick decision making as Ortega was able to decide for the whole employees in the company and this ensured the implementation of his carefully originated designs and fashions. In addition, this leadership style has strength of ensuring a strong chain of command that is crucial and effective for such a large organization by ensuring that sub-managers only carried orders from Ortega (Northouse Peter 44).
This style of leadership has also faced criticisms based on the weakness that are associated with it including negative motivation that is channeled to the leader alone. It has been pointed out that there is a tendency for the other members of the team to face frustrations, low morale and conflicts developing as the subordinates feel that their contributions are not taken into account (Vecchio Robert 23).
This leadership style impacted on his career as it ensured that his innovation was the only one used in the company, it also ensured just in time delivery of products to the customers (Badía Enrique 34). Later, this style changed as he was able to leave the helm of leadership to Pablo Isla who together with his team was able to execute their own innovations in the textile industry.
Factors that contributed to success
Based on the success story of Ortega, certain factors contributed to him being a successful leader. Innovation is one factor that contributed to this; he was able to come up with a unique business model for the company. As a leader, this is one of the ingredients of success as it is believed it makes one to be in a position to deal with stiff competition and also the ever changing business environment. This was important because it led to giving the customers what they wanted as quickly as possible. It also trained employees in the company to always keep an eye to customer’s requests, styles and purchasing trends. A leader must also ensure the delivery of what is needed by the customers and also train the employees to respond according to customer queries.
Simplicity is another factor that led to his success; this entailed his ability to listen to other employees and help keep them together to feel as part of the success of the company. It is asserted that up to date despite being so rich, Ortega still eats in the company cafeteria with other employees. It is has been ascertained that his low profile, relaxed and free style ego has been responsible for his success as a leader. This has equally been important in transforming the company by always working and operating based on values and beliefs. Research has found out that most managers who perform well are those who assume low profile but work tirelessly hard on the backend of the business (Goleman et al 52).
There are bold lessons that can be learnt from the leadership success story of Ortega, to be successful as a leader one must learn to listen to both the employees and clients. Research has found that listening to employees helps in integrating their opinions and views to come up with tangible results for the success of the organization (Adair John 55). Ortega constantly listened to his workers and clients and that made him come up with unique brands that met customer tastes and preferences.
Secondly, a leader must be innovative and also find solutions to problems in addition to coming up with new unique business products and services. The other lesson is that as a leader and entrepreneur one should not be discouraged by problems that one is passing through. In fact, the success of Ortega is attributed to poverty, his father received meager salary and his mother was even denied goods on credit. The mistake that was done by Ortega as a leader was protecting employees who were labeled as ‘thieves’. In addition, the company under the leadership of Ortega had the tendency to discriminating black employees at the expense of whites employees based on a report by Center for Popular Democracy. According to a survey that was conducted by Center for Popular Democracy it was discovered that black employees received low wages. However, these mistakes did not contribute to failure of the business as it continued to flourish but should be taken into account by future managers.
As a take away, the lesson that I have learnt from the story of Ortega is that there is need to constantly be innovative, be inclusive in decision making and always resists temptations just like Ortega and his company resisted the temptation of outsourcing manufacturing and pricing of their merchandise.
Elements of good leadership entail inclusive decision making that has the capability of evaluating and analyzing all the available alternatives. Currently, Ortega still eats in the same cafeteria with his employees despite being among the richest in the world, this is motivation. It has been established through research that motivation is an element that improves performance by ensuring that employees perform excellently (Saxena Sanjay and Purnima Awasthi 66). Finally, different managers can engage different leadership styles and at the end irrespective of the style employed results would dictate success or failure. Popularity is not leadership as supported by Ortega who up to date still maintains a low profile.
Adair, John E. Effective Leadership: How to Be a Successful Leader. London: Pan, 2009. Print.
Badía, Enrique. Zara and Her Sisters: The Story of the World’s Largest Clothing Retailer.
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Print.
Goleman, Daniel, Richard E. Boyatzis, and Annie MacKee. Primal Leadership. Boston, Mass:
Harvard Business School Press, 2006. Print.
Nohria, Nitin, Rakesh Khurana, and Bharat Anand. Handbook of Leadership Theory and
Practice: An Hbs Centennial Colloquium on Advancing Leadership. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Press, 2010. Internet resource.
Northouse, Peter G. Leadership: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2010.
Saxena, Sanjay, and Purnima Awasthi. Leadership. New Delhi: PHI Learning, 2010. Print.
Vecchio, Robert P. Leadership: Understanding the Dynamics of Power and Influence in
Organizations. Notre Dame, Ind: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007. Print.