Leadership Case: Toto Wolff’s big decision

January 4, 2015

A Leadership We Deserve Student Case Study

Mercedes chief Toto Wolff faced a big decision when the two stars of his Formula One team became bitter rivals.

In 2014, Mercedes quickly demonstrated the superiority of its F1 cars. Within a few races, it became clear the Mercedes team would win the Constructor’s championship easily. In every race, their two drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg finished first and second. except when prevented by technical retirements in a small number of races.

The problem

The problem was that only one of the drivers could win the prestigious driver’s competition. The battle between the two became intense, risking a collision through a misjudged overtaking move.

Wolff discussed the situation with the drivers, and warned them about the consequences.

The collision

At the Belgium Grand Prix, the feared collision took place.

Rosberg appeared to have collided at high speed and recklessly with Hamilton, putting Hamilton out of the race. It was even suggested that the move was deliberate.

What would you do in Toto Wolff’s place?


Relationship management: Mercedes chief Toto Wolff sets an example in F1

November 21, 2014

Formula One racing has compounded its problems this year by adding to competition between drivers racing within the same team. Toto Wolff of Mercedes has tried to address the dilemma for drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg

The broader issue is that of competitive individuals who are expected to put aside personal ambitions for the greater good of the organization to which they are committed.

A universal social dilemma

This is a universal social dilemma. In various forms it has attracted considerable attention.

Just recently, the distinguished Ethnologist Edward Wilson revealed the intensity over the debate with dismissive remarks over the ideas of Richard Dawkins, particularly over altruism and the selfish gene hypothesis.

It may be relevant that Wilson has specialized in understanding the social life of the ant, a species in which individual interests of the many are utterly subordinate to the well-being of the whole colony. His work adds to understanding of Eusociality.

335px-Fire_ants_01

From Formicidae to Formula One

Meanwhile, back from ants to Formula One racing, a system has been deliberately designed to sustain interest in the competition between two drivers in each team through points earned in each race towards the driver’s championship. This captures the attention of the global audience. There is also competition among the teams, the constructors championship, which is based on the total points scored by both drivers. This is the measure which encourages financial support for the constructors.

The Dilemma compounded

The Dilemma for F1 has been compounded by several factors this year. The most obvious is the decision to award double points to the drivers of last race in Dubai. This rather crude decision was made inevitably with the approval of Bernie Eccleston whose grasp of unintended consequences of actions seems limited. He has recently accepted a stay out of jail settlement in the German courts.

These issues took place as more unintended consequences of the funding mechanisms forced two teams out of the competition facing financial meltdown.

For Mercedes, whose team had by far the most successful car this year, the dilemma was exacerbated the competition between the drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg who will battle it out for first place in Abu Dabhi shortly. Mercedes has already won the constructors championship

A matter of relationship management

It was refreshing to read the mature approach shown by Toto Wolff.

Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ head of motorsport, has told both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg that losing the world championship in Abu Dhabi next week will not be the end of the world for either of them.
The observation is likely to fall on deaf ears but Wolff has felt compelled to move into full man-management mode ahead of the final race of the season, the double-points decider at the Yas Marina circuit, and told everyone in the team to “buckle up” for a rough ride next week

“The aftermath is relationship management, which is important for the future,” he said. “But [in] the run-up [it] is important to maintain the balance, to maintain the respect between the two and to let it stay a respectful relationship.”

Points for the leadership championship

If there were a leadership championship with points awarded by Leaders we deserve, Toto Wolff would be this month’s winner. Bernie Eccleston would not get past the first qualifying session.

Attribution

Image of fire ants By Stephen Ausmus [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons