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“Kind of an Asshole”
-Gawker News
“Encourages Porn”-Gawker News

“Tough Guy” -New York Times
“Jerk” -Gawker News
-Chicago Tribune

All quoted words are directly taken from each news source and are not necessarily the views held by our group.

Equity_International.jpg Tribune_Co..jpgCompany Information: Tribune Company & Equity International

Sam Zell is the founder of Equity International and he recently purchased the Tribune Company. The Tribune Company features 22 newspapers, 23 televsion stations, 1 radio station and The Chicago Cubs baseball team. Sam Zell is one of the most controversial and original leaders in the business community in the last 20 years. Zell is not your typical executive. Instead of three piece suits, Zell favors bluejeans and open button shirts for conducting business meetings. His laid back style reflects his desire of originality and his indifference to the opinions of others. However, DO NOT be fooled by his nonchalance; Sam Zell is very intense and is driven to succeed. Zell's intensity is clearly evident in his lively meetings, where he will frequently shout the phrase "Am I being to subtle?" This is reference to his well documented extreme personality. This simple phrase is very important in Zell's leadership style and will be explained in detail later.

(For further reference into Sam Zell's business world click to read an article from The New York Times

Sam Zell speaks to the Orlando Sentinel:

Leadership Style:
Sam Zell is a very interesting leader, he has many of the qualities that Trait Theories identified to be present in many leaders. For one thing, Sam Zell is original, extroverted, dominant and self-confident. Although Trait Theory is not supported by research studies, the previous traits are still theories that are clearly visible in Sam Zell and his leadership. On the other hand, under the Behavioral Theories research, Sam Zell uses a democratic style of leadership. Mr. Zell does not lead a bureaucratic organization. In fact, Zell eliminates many regulations and controls. Most recently, Zell re-wrote the
Tribune Company Handbook and wrote it in colloquial language that contains only 2 rules:

Rule #1: Use your best judgement

Rule #2: See Rule 1

Zell did this becuase he wants to increase the autonomy of workers and have them take on my responsibility and be self-directed.

Sam Zell is also a charismatic leader, which is one of the three styles under inspirational leadership. A charismatic leader uses personal abilities to motivate employees. Sam Zell demonstrates his charisma with his everyday vernacular. His propensity of vulgar language and brutal honesty makes him easier relatable to employees. As the YouTube video above shows, his name calling of another executive provoked the crowd to roar in laughter. This could prove beneficial as according to the textbook ORGB by Nelson and Quick, charimatic leaders tend to outperform other leaders in difficult times. This is a good sign for the Tribune Company because they are facing difficult times right now with declining readership and profits.

Mr. Zell also understands the importance of trust in a business. As a leader he understands that to be effective his workers need to trust him. To gain the trust and support of his workers, last winter after purchasing the Tribune, Zell visited and spoke with every Tribune newspaper around the country and shared with them his vision for the company and gave them the opportunity to ask questions and share their opinions. Although this enterprise was time consuming and costly, Mr. Zell is hoping that he was able to gain the trust of his employees so they will trust him to improve the company. In addition, Mr Zell inherited a Tribune company that was dollars in debt and is being counted on to turn the empire's misfortunes around. (For more information on Mr. Zell's Tribune acquisition, click

Sam Zell is not one for strict office rules or defined patterns of work. His main focus is productivity. He has been quoted saying to employees, “If [you]
want to watch porn all day at [your] desk then go for it! As long as [you’re] productive” (New York Observer). This behavior contradicts an initiating structure of behavior, which emphasizes clear patterns of organization, and detailed ways of getting things done. Zell is less concerned about tedious rule-making, and instead trusts that employees will simply fulfill their tasks for the good of the company and their job. (For more information on Sam Zell’s stance on productivity see New York Observer
article. )

Sam Zell is one of the nation’s top leaders of business. He knows what he wants, how to get it and how to motivate others in accordance to the direction he chooses. As the leader of the Tribune Company, Sam Zell certainly fulfills the requirements of the formal leader. He is officially set up as the director and head of the Tribune Company. He also executes effective leadership by producing change in the culture and the organization of the Tribune Company. When he took over the company, he began to shake things up by bringing in new managers who were aligned with his goals and vision for the company. In one article put out by the Wall Street Journal, it stated that, ‘as he scans investment opportunities, what matters most to him is effective management. “An average company with good management can be fine,” he said, “a good company with lousy management won’t succeed.”’ He has effectively set up managers who he believes are capable to guide the Tribune Company in the direction he wants it to go. Sam Zell demonstrates a form of the Contingency Theory called the Path-Goal Theory. Each of the four bullet points of this particular theory can be seen when he’s working with other people. He wants to make sure that people understand what he wants and that he also understands their particular dilemma. He wants to avoid confusion because he knows that when there is confusion, things do not run smoothly. It is noted that sometimes in a meeting with some manager or other Zell will ask, “am I being to subtle?” This shows that he wants clarity in the conversation and that there are no misunderstandings with the direction of the company. “I want to make sure everybody comes away from meeting me understanding what I said. I don’t talk in circles. Why would I want to create misunderstandings?” says Sam Zell. He shows a directive style by steering through confusion or questions that his managers bring to him, but he also supports them by clearing any confusion they may have regarding a decision. Through the work he participates in, he directs the managers and the company through an achievement oriented process. Although the “path-goal theory assumes that the leaders adapt their behavior style to fit the characteristics of the followers and the environment in which they work” (ORGB 190), Sam Zell seems to shake things up and make the company environment conform to him with his laid back attire and his attitude of, he doesn’t care what you do, as long as the work of the company gets done.


McClear, Sheila. "In His Own Words, Sam Zell is Kind of an Asshole." Gawker News. 29 Feb. 2008.7 Nov. 2008 <>.

Meyers, Gerald, and Susan Meyers. Dealers, Healers, Brutes & Saviors: Eight Winning Styles for Solving Giant Business Crises. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2000.

Nelson, D.L. and Quick, J.C. ORGB. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Publishing. 2009.

Perez-Pena, Richard. "Sam Zell: A Tough Guy in a Mean Business." The New York Times. 7 Apr. 2008. 7 Nov. 2008 <>.

Rosenthal, Phil. "On the future, dealmaking and bad press."Chicago Tribune. 4 Apr. 2007. 7 Nov. 2008 <,0,269205.story>.

The Tribune Company Handbook. The Tribune Company, 2008.

Zell, Sam. The Orlando Sentinel, Orlando, FL. 31 January 2008. 1 Nov. 2008 <>.