Paul B. Thornton

For the past 30 years, I have conducted seminars, workshops, and taught college classes on leadership.

I used a variety of teaching aids including books, articles, case studies, role plays, and videos.

I recently created a book, Leadership Case Studies that includes some of the case studies and role-plays that I found to be most instructive and impactful.

Here is a sample of three case studies. 

Gil Ramos Case Study

Gil Ramos accepted an appointment as the new principal of Smithfield Vocational School in July 2012. At the time, approximately 620 students attended Smithfield.

He knew he was in for the biggest challenge of his career.

Ramos had 10 direct reports including eight academic department heads, one assistant principal, and an administrative assistant. He had been in the education field for the past 18 years. Ramos had spent eight years as a teacher and the last 12 years in various administrative roles at three different high schools.

During the interview process and speaking informally with people in the community he heard various comments about the school including:                      

Ramos also learned that each of Smithfield’s 12 vocational programs, were funded through Chapter 74 (Massachusetts Vocational Technical Education Regulations). The law required each vocational program to have an advisory committee of 7-to-10 industry leaders from the region. However, most of the educational programs had no advisory committee or, at best, one that was barely functioning.

Panera Bread Case Study

Ron Shaich, the former CEO of Panera Bread, believes there are two essential requirements of operating any successful business: discovery and delivery.

  • Discovery refers to the actions taken to identify new products and services that customers will want to buy.
  • Delivery refers to the actions taken to deliver products and services in the most efficient way. 

Every few months, Panera Bread demonstrates discovery by announcing the addition of a few new items on their menu.

In addition, they periodically demonstrate delivery by implementing a new process that makes it easier to place and/or pick up an order.

Each action, discovery and delivery, requires a different focus and set of skills. The discovery process requires collaborating and brainstorming to come up with new products and services. 

The delivery process involves flowcharting, measuring, analyzing, and simplifying processes and procedures to improve efficiency. 

In addition to “discovery and delivery” leaders must engage in a number of related activities such as:  

  • Action and reflection
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Discussing facts and feelings
  • Focusing on the present and future
  • Talking and listening

What is the right ratio? Of course, it depends on the situation. The right ratio doesn’t mean a 50-50 split. Each situation is unique and requires proper analysis to determine the most effective ratio to use. 

  1. What are the consequences of focusing too much on discoveryand not enough on delivery?
  2. What are the consequences of focusing too much on delivery and not enough on discovery?
  3. What factors should leaders consider when trying to find the right ratio or balance between two related activities?   

Urban Meyer Case Study

Read the short book, Leadership Case Studies—The Motivational Techniques of Urban Meyer.

Go to YouTube and watch the video, “Ohio State Leadership Case Study.”

  1. What are his top three leadership traits?
  2. According to Meyer, what traits do coaches need to build trust with their players?   
  3. What are the major actions he takes to build a winning team?
  4. What new insights did you learn about leadership from this case study?

The book contains 16 case studies, 4 role-plays, and 6 articles. I hope you find some of the content useful and helpful in your efforts to teach leadership.


Paul B. Thornton is an author and speaker. His latest e-books include:

  • Leadership-Perfecting Your Approach and Style-($1.99) Amazon Kindle. 
  • Leadership Case Studies-($4.99) Amazon Kindle.

He has produced 28 short YouTube videos on various management and leadership topics.  

He can be contacted at [email protected].