Delicious Dynamics: Leader/Follower Structure in the Food Industry
The leader/follower dynamics at Virginia Gourmet are interesting due to the fact that the company is a small business organization. The leadership structure consists of two dual proprietors (two bosses), a handful of employees, and a virtual team of interns. As a result, work has a concrete structure with set responsibilities that rarely change. The two owners of the business oversee operations, expansion, negotiations, and business deals while the virtual team provides them with the information they request. Employees have a good amount of freedom; however, the tasks that they’re required to complete tend to possess little room for creativity. For example, for this week the virtual intern team was asked to make a price comparison between local competitors. As part of the virtual team, we had the freedom to complete the task whenever we liked, but our boss expected our portion of the excel sheet completed cut and dry. In the coming weeks my boss has foreshadowed a potential marketing project which may allow for more autonomy, but in the first two weeks this hasn’t been the case.
The actual structure of the organization is very decentralized. The home office of operations is in Williamsburg Virginia, but most of the employees’ complete work from home to reduce costs. The salaried employees tend to be from the area, but the virtual team is scattered all over the place. Currently there are two sales locations open for Virginia Gourmet, but my team doesn’t interact with the sales team very often. Information is passed through the owners, and distributed to the other teams through them.
The levels of leadership within the organization are complex due to different team compositions. I have found that amongst my virtual team the leadership style/influence tends to be very passive. Moreover, if we see one intern doing something in the excel spreadsheet that checks out, others tend to mimic them. Holistically, the company definitely follows a “grass roots” type of leadership style. All the power resides in the owners (there are no managers) and the leadership at the other levels is limited.
In regards to improving the leadership structure, I believe that will come as the company begins to develop enough revenue to host employees in house. Decentralization presents a large barrier to effective leadership within the organization. Given that this aspect of the company is currently beyond its control, it should continue to value the input of its staff. By emphasizing the value of inputs from its employees, workers become motivated and invested in their work. Given that Virginia Gourmet is a small company, it needs as much as it can get from its employees. Keeping them motivated is a good start.