Stanford case: The Men’s Wearhouse: by Jeffrey Pfeffer

April 21, 2010

Success In A Declining Industry

This case study is tremendously interesting as The Men’s Wearhouse exemplifies a company that understands not only the concept of “Servant Leadership” in both spectrums: communal and business; but also serves as a model to other companies that want to implement this concept of Servant Leadership as it “suggests that in order to make a capitalistic system work, there has to be a democratization of everything- of effort and the fruits of those efforts….looking out for ways here to share the wealth and really make it win-win-win”. Something that people don’t fully understand yet, TMW’s founder George Zimmer pointed out.

Well, this case study kind of goes along with a previous article I blogged in earlier termed: Servant Leadership: “New wine, old bottles” by Stephen Covey in which he presented the ideas of what it takes to be an effective servant leader as well. And in both cases we see that a servant leadership taker forces a change of perspective from traditional boss/employee relationship to the service provider/customer relationship, what is better known as open facilitator(s) to both internal and external customers to become better people; people confident in themselves, in their abilities and potential to grow through excellence within the corporation.

So the above case study on TMW (The Men’s Wearhouse) outlines the essence of servant leadership, and truly TMW is a vivid example of a company that is able to prosper when servant leadership is mastered and carried out properly through the company. So, below please see the most important components on servant leadership I took away from this case study:

  • Mentoring people: as George Zimmer noted: “I have always looked at the key to the success of the company as being in mentoring. So, training or mentorship, were key points on TMW’s success.
  • “High Touch” organization: Zimmer strives to maintain the personal contact and connection in the organization regardless of its magnitude.
  • Five stakeholder groups: employers, customers, vendors, communities, shareholders. These five groups were ranked in order of importance by Zimmer. He truly believes in building cohesive and loyal groups from within first to value their people as recognizing that making them feel valued and supported will eventually lead to everyone winning. So building these relationships among their employees and staff will create a spirit of fraternity and solidarity to help each other out in times of extreme situations to go above and beyond their call of duty in the end.
  • “I guarantee it”: pledge  by Zimmer’s working in the stores and realizing that adding value to your business, while also providing exceptional service is fundamental to take your company to the next level “greatness”- that is add value to internal and external customers, this includes the five stakeholder groups, to, through the service, win their loyalty. As Zimmer noted: “value is the untapped human potential”.
  • Promotion and career development: it is from within which instills a long-term career in the workforce, stable, and with great advancement potential.
  • Compensation and staffing: based on salary and commission.  

In summary, I enjoyed reading this case study a whole lot, because to me the biggest key takeaway from this reading is that instilling a servant leadership model in the company prepares future leaders to be servant leaders in your absence. As we have discussed that same statement in class, “The way we are led, that is how we are going to lead”. So, whether leading or following, let’s encourage those around us to be purposeful and servant leaders.


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