Free «Critical Thinking: Cliffside Holding Company's Case» Essay

Critical Thinking: Cliffside Holding Company's Case

1. What are the issue and conclusions?

The key issue of the case is whether it is worth involving junior insurance executives in a leadership-development program, which is rather costly. An individual responsible for decision-making believes that the results of the program seem to be too questionable. The matter is that Vice-President of HR supposes that leadership is inclined to some individuals, rather than can be improved by leadership-development techniques. Therefore, he concluded that he does not approve the idea of leadership-training program.

2. What are the reasons? 

The first reason that is against leadership-development program is financial one, as the company cannot afford paying for the training and paying damages due to absence of the employees, who will be attending this program. Next, the company is rather successful and leadership is highly developed, though company’s executives have never attended such leadership-development programs. Then, leadership is determined genetically, as if it is a physical characteristic of any individual, for example, height. Further, the person who is responsible for leadership-development program - Ms. Florence Forsythe, is suspected to be interested in this idea in order to satisfy personal needs and ‘bleeding-heart liberal intention’. It makes the author suspect her and deny her attempts to take his position in the company. The next reason is that the company must conduct recruitment, but money cannot be spent on recruitment because they will be spent on training. In this case, it is more beneficial to hire the individuals with already brilliant leadership skills instead of training those who have no leadership abilities.

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3. Which words or phrases are ambiguous?

The author’s reasoning is full of ambiguous words and claims that are neither explained in details nor accompanied by any evidence. These words and statements make the author’s arguments weak and unpersuasive. For instance, the term ‘leadership’ that is the center of attention in the case, is not defined at the beginning. Next, the author wrote that Ms. Florence Forsythe “is motivated by both personal gain and bleeding-heart liberal intentions”, while the meaning of ‘personal gain’ and ‘liberal intention’ are not explain sufficiently. And, finally, in conclusion, the author noted that during the leadership developing program money are not ‘well-spent’, while he did not provide any characteristics of this adjective. In addition, the author wrote that training ‘wrong people’ is not beneficial for the company. However, the meaning of wrong employees is not provided. The phrase “I speak for truth and common sense” may be interpreted in different ways, though the author strives to introduce his opinion as the right one. Common sense has numerous meanings; some people may misunderstand his intentions and consider the above-mentioned phrase to be washing out his arguments. The word ‘truth’ is also extremely ambiguous, as everybody has its own understanding of truth that is not obvious to other people. Thus, this word should not be used to prove the rightness of someone’s position.

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4. Are there any value assumptions and conflicts or descriptive assumptions? If so, what are they?

First of all, it is worth emphasizing that the author is driven by pragmatism, as he strives to do his best to increase company’s income and reduce losses. Essentially, there are both descriptive (characteristics of the world as it is) and value assumptions (how the world should be) that determine author’s reasoning. The main descriptive assumption is connected with the essence of leadership: some individuals are born leaders; it is impossible to develop leadership skills in case they are not innate. Next, some people are born with leader’s inclinations and they have no difficulties in achieving well-paid and responsible positions, while some employees have no leadership skills, which makes it difficult to reach the goals and to be the best among their coworkers. The value assumptions of the author underline that leadership-developing training should not exist, as it is a waste of time and money: leaders cannot be made, therefore, it is necessary to hire and promote those who are already leaders instead of trying to teach the ones, who are incapable to leadership. Thus, the author prefers the theory of innate leadership qualities to giving people a chance, instead of believing in their power and allowing them to achieve the goals they want to achieve. The author’s position is opposite to the liberal views on people’s rights and it makes him believe that leadership cannot be improved by training. Therefore, people should not try to become someone, whose traits they do not have and whose traits they cannot develop. According to author’ views, people should follow their natural inclinations or genetics and society’s order should be formed with consideration of people’s abilities to some activities and businesses.

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5. Are there any fallacies in the reasoning?

Though, at glance, the quantity and quality of author’s arguments seem sufficient, the reasoning is based on fallacies that lead to wrong conclusions, which are inconsistent with truth and rules of logic. For example, there is assumption ad hominem: instead of explaining why Ms. Florence Forsythe is wrong, the author blamed her in having personal intentions regarding leadership-developing program and suspected her in coveting his position in the company. The author criticized everything but her arguments for leadership training, which should have been the crucial aspect of his discontent towards her ideas. Slippery Slope can also be found in the author’s argument: he stated that leadership training will bring great losses for the company, while refusal to train the executives will help to save the money. It is important to notice that author does not believe in possibility to develop leadership skill at all and, consequently, he does not accept the fact that leadership training may bring any benefits to the company. Thus, potential positive effects of leadership training are completely ignored. Appeal to questionable authority is evident as well: the author cited Wikipedia, which is considered incredible source that cannot define the essence of leadership, which is extremely important in this case. In addition, the author quoted “the famous economist Dr. Irwin Corey”, in order to prove that leadership is innate, though economists are not competent in the field of genetics and psychology. In order to confirm that leadership is innate the author had better quoted neurobiologists, phycologists or doctors, who are really competent and who can provide explanations of innate nature of leadership. Appeal to popularity is also met; in order to demonstrate that leadership development is not necessary, the author wrote that everybody but one senior staff agrees that leaders are born, not made.

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6. How good is the evidence?

Author’s evidence is supported by intuition, personal experience, authorities, research studies, and analogy. Author appeals to intuition when he suspects Ms. Florence Forsythe in coveting his position and following personal gain: he had no sufficient evidence to suspect her. When the author concluded with “I speak for truth and common sense”, he also referred to his private feelings and emotions because there is no common understanding of the concept of truth and ‘common sense’. The author is frequently appealing to personal experience as evidence: “in my own experience, I’ve also noted that a tall physical stature is possessed by leaders”. This phrase also contains hasty generalization fallacy; based on height of some of the most famous leaders, the author concluded that all leaders are high. Next, he noted that every member of the senior staff in Ms. Cynthia Castle’s company is high, except for Ms. Florence Forsythe. Even if he did not state that Ms. Florence Forsythe is not a leader, he hinted that she has no traits, inherent in leaders. The author mentioned that “two well-respected research studies that support the notion that personality traits can predict leadership were published in the Journal of Applied Psychology and in the Leadership Quarterly.” However, he did not provide the titles of the researches, the authors and publication date, in order to prove that these researches were really conducted. Though researches were mentioned, they may only prove that personality traits can predict leadership, while the true issue is whether leadership is innate or not. Author tried to support the assumption that does not need to be supported, as he should have supported the issue of leadership nature. Thus, an appeal to researches does not support the author’s conclusion. Analogy that is not sufficient evidence due to its weakness as an argumentation tool is noticed in the text. In the passage “In my own experience, I’ve also noted that a tall physical stature is possessed by leaders. Certainly no one can increase his or her height--it is determined by genetics. Note the heights of some of the greatest leaders in United States history in the table, below” there is analogy. 1. Tall physical stature is a necessary attribute of a leader (false assumption). 2. All the leaders are tall (false assumption). 3. It is impossible to increase genetically determined height (which is the characteristic of leader). 4. Consequently, it is impossible to improve genetically determined leadership traits (false conclusion). Thus, the evidence provided by the author does not prove his assumptions and, consequently, does not support his conclusion.

  1. Are there rival causes?

When it comes to rival causes, it is worth facing that understanding of alternative causes of some phenomena, mentioned by the author, help to evaluate his reasoning and conclusions. For example, the author wrote that every except one senior staff member of successful company has never attended leadership-developing training, in order to prove that leadership is innate. However, the cause of why senior staff members have not attended training is because there were no leadership trainings a few decades ago. Moreover, the fact that some leaders have not been to leadership training programs does not prove that leadership is innate. These leaders may have had experience and knowledge that have been training them and have been improving their leadership skills without special leadership-development program.

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8. Are the statistics deceptive? (if present)

Though the author did not provide any statistics, he mentioned the famous leaders who were tall. He might have intended to show that most of leaders are tall, despite the absence of sufficient evidence and statistics.

9. What significant information has been omitted?

As it was mentioned above, the key issue is whether leadership is innate or it should be developed by training. Though the author wanted to support the first position, he ignored important information regarding the nature of leadership and genetics. Leadership depends on the individual’s temperament, while temperament is innate and determined genetically. Nevertheless, some inclinations that people have are developed or blunted by the individual or by his social environment. Therefore, leadership may be learned and improved by training. In addition, it is worth underlining that only 20 best employees were chosen to participate in training and to be promoted further, which means that they have some outstanding capabilities and skills. It proves that these people who were chosen from the vast employees already have leadership inclinations or skills that may and should be improved by leadership-developing programs. Thus, the company does not waste money for teaching those, who are not capable of becoming leaders, which strikes the reasoning and conclusion of the author.

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10. What reasonable conclusions are possible?

It is rather difficult to set alternative reasonable conclusions to the author’s reasoning because most of provided evidence does not support the conclusion. Taking into account the weakness of the author’s arguments, it is possible to conclude that leadership training may be beneficial, as people who have already demonstrated leadership traits may improve them. In order to make sure that this statement is true and company may benefit from training the executives one should count the income that may be brought to company in case the chosen employees implement leadership knowledge in their daily work.

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