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Mattel’s Strategy: Training Managers to Become Leaders

Leadership is one of the key factors that contribute favorably to the success of any organization. In organizations where leadership is lacking, there is always confusion since there are no well-structured organizational goals. Leadership can be described as the ability of an individual to use emotional and personality skills to influence the achievement of organizational goals. The efficiency of management will only be enhanced through the utilization of leadership qualities in the course of running the business. There is always a disparity between management and leadership in that, one can be a good manager but be a bad leader. While a manager will primarily focus on increasing the output through management functions, a leader will seek to create unity in pursuit of the organizational goal. In addition, Rothwell and Kazanas (1999) have described management as “a function of position in the organization’s chain of command while leadership is a function of the ability to influence others”. In Mattel, before the company strategy was drawn, the form of management practiced was unstructured and focused mainly on the output and profitability but did not have the future of the organization’s insight. It was a case of everyone for himself in trying to achieve the targets set but all the employees had no sense of direction. The managers focused on profitability of the company but failed to address unity/cohesion, staff motivation, communication systems, as well as succession plan in the organization.

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Various theories have tried to address the issue of leadership in organizations in order to boost operations efficiency. To be successful, an organization should have competent leaders. Mattel might have had a competent manager/CEO, Barad, who managed to expand the company while at the same time increasing sales and bottom-line profits, but lacked leadership, which was the contributing factor to the lack of diversity efficiency and poor corporate strategies. Although some theorists claim leaders are born, there are some distinct skills that a leader can acquire through training and situational exposure. For instance, a leader should have social qualities that will enable him unite the workforce and give them direction. This involves formulating strategies that can bring coordination, a discipline that can only be achieved through training.

Mattel’s future strategy or direction had to be communicated to all the employees in order to have unity of purpose. For Mattel to be successful, all the staff had to be subjected to leadership programs to acquaint them with the relevant leadership skills. However, this had to be directed towards the common organization goal as well as the company’s mission and vision. Leadership skills include such elements as communication, motivation, conflict resolution and feedback systems all of which should enhance the creation of an effective balanced scorecard in the organization. One positive thing that Mattel did was to involve employees in developing Mattel’s corporate values and applying the Bottom-up learning approach to create corporate strategy and vision (Mattel Workforce Strategy, 2007). This action was aimed at unifying the workforce towards the common Mattel organization goal.

Effective leadership should run all through the organization. The leadership training programs would become productive when all employees went through them to acquire relevant skills. Apart from playing part as a forum for sharing ideas across Mattel’s network, the program was vital in motivating employees as it allowed teamwork – an influential tool in social fulfillment and morale-boosting. Leadership can be acquired through teaching and observation with the belief that leaders are made as per the behavioral theory of leadership (Wagner, n.d). Motivation plays a key role in the performance of employees, especially where the HR policies include procedures for rewarding good performance and correctional procedures for below-par performance.

Training managers to become leaders is a benefit to the organization. This is due to the fact that a successful manager is the one who is able to influence the subordinates by standing out as a guidance of the direction the organization should take. Mattel ensured this through instituting a single performance management system whose target was to ensure every employee; beginning with the managers worked towards contributing to the overall strategic goals, enhanced all-around feedback system and customized coaching where special attention was needed. The impact was to have complete organizational culture that had focus.

The success of Mattel’s training program is the identification of talent within the organization. Talent can never be unearthed without leadership as had been noticed in Mattel before the leadership training program. Although there was innovation and surge in sales before, the real people behind such success were never identified or even motivated. The realization that the strength of the company lies with talent within, was a viable move to train employees on leadership skills in order to instill confidence in the employees to assume leadership roles in their areas of the endowment. This training program was successful in boosting employees with new ideas and creating an atmosphere where diverse ideas could be implemented, the result of which was the improved performance and active decision making by the employees. This diverted the attention of employees from their immediate unit requirements to incorporating their thinking with corporate strategy and vision.

The establishment of the training program also led to elaborate and efficient succession plans within Mattel. According to Rothwell and Kazanas (1999), a well-designed leadership training program can be useful to individual job mastery, teamwork and organizational performance especially when employees are given the sufficient leadership skills to make sound economic decisions that can propel the company in achieving competitive advantage. The rationale behind leadership training is to equip employees with adequate skills which will be very important in succession planning. This has born fruit in Mattel through career diversity thus increasing internal promotions and reduced employee turnover. Armed with better trained and skillful workforce, Mattel had no reason to seek outside talent to fill vacant positions in the company.

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The importance of leadership training can not be ignored. A company may be doing well financially but fail to hold ground during turbulent times due to a lack of leadership. It is therefore important that all managers, as well as other staff, seek to acquire sufficient leadership skills, not only for the organization’s good but also for personal development. One important aspect of leadership is that it has no boundary –anybody can be a leader- and the use of passion and emotional intelligence to achieve results.


Duke Corporate Education (2005) Building Effective Teams: Leading from the Center. NY, Kaplan Publishing.

Mattel’s Workforce Strategy (2007) Mattel’s Workforce Strategy: Case Study. ICFAI Business School.

Rothwell, William J. and Kazanas, H. C. (1999) Building in-house leadership and management development programs: their creation, management, and continuous improvement. CA, Greenwood Publishing Group.

Wagner, K. V. (N.d) Leadership Theories – 8 Major Leadership Theories. (Online). 2009. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Mattel’s Strategy: Training Managers to Become Leaders'. 29 October.

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