Considering the fact that Healy succeeded another woman, Elizabeth Dole, as president of the Red Cross, it is highly unlikely that her difficulties with the board were solely because she was a woman. But, according to David McLaughlin, now chairman of the board, both Dole, the first woman president since founder Clara Barton and Healy were “fighting a culture, a culture that had grown up over a long period of time.”
(Sontag, 2003, p. 34) It is easy to assume that the “culture” they were fighting was a male dominated one.
Although Sontag’s article mentions the differences between Healy and Dole (i.e. that Dole had a more human touch) it is probable that the real reason for her problems is that the board had overextended its reach in the period between Dole’s departure and Healy’s arrival, and regarded Healy as the instrument to reign them in.
Question 2. Healy’s method of leadership most closely follows the A1 model where the leader takes known information and then decides alone.
(Vroom, n.d.)This can be seen in at least four major decisions mentioned in the article. First, Healy was held responsible for the firing of the two women who ran the Disaster Operations Center when their response to the crises at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania on September 11 was sorely wanting. (Sontag, 2003, p. 34)
Second, she summarily suspended the director of the Hudson County Chapter of the Red Cross and his bookkeeper without pay after embezzlement of funds was suspected.
Although she turned out to be right, the board thought that she had handled the matter poorly. (Sontag, 2003, p. 35)
Third, Healy took measures to assure the safety of their blood supply by deciding to hire several high-profile executives to oversee the process. (Sontag, 2003, p. 37) And fourth, Healy declared on her own initiative that the September 11th tragedy was in a class of its own, therefore necessitating a separate fund called the Liberty Fund for disaster relief. (Sontag, 2003, p. 38)
Question 3. Although the Red Cross is a non-profit organization with a grass-roots, humanitarian face, in order for it to be effective it must be run as efficiently as a for-profit organization. Without structure and accountability the Red Cross cannot be expected to have the necessary funds and resources ready or to provide disaster relief when in an efficient manner on an immediate basis. The embezzlement of funds in New Jersey confirmed this.
Question 4. McLaughlin’s statement about Healy’s loss of capital with the board means that every decision she made that did not sit well with the members of the board reduced the confidence of the board in her management of the Red Cross.
The board may have been willing to overlook small or immaterial decisions but the fact that there were so many major autonomous decisions made by this take-charge woman depleted their confidence in her judgment to the point where she could not rebuild their trust. Remember that without any capital (confidence), one can earn no interest or profit (trust).
Sontag, Deborah. (2001, December 23). Who Brought Bernadine Healy Down? New York Times Magazine, 32 – 40, 52.
Vroom and Yetton’s Normative Model. (n.d.). ChangingMInds.org. Retrieved November 23, 2008, from