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January 2016


By Wendy Lambourne, Director, Legitimate Leadership

In August 2009 Johnson Matthey Emission Control Technologies (ECT) opened a new emissions control and catalyst plant in the town of Smithfield (south-west Pennsylvania, USA) to manufacture large, complex, heavy-duty diesel catalysts.

From the very beginning the management of the facility was convinced that the site’s culture would be critical to their success. Moreover, that great cultures don’t happen but rather evolve over time through conscious and dedicated leadership commitment and action. Legitimate Leadership played an important role in that evolution.




By a Senior Manager in a global company which is a client of Legitimate Leadership

By a senior manager in a global company which is a client of Legitimate Leadership It’s 2016 and in world terms the oil price has dropped from over $100/barrel to less than $40/barrel. Chinese stock markets fall 5% in one week. Customers are extending the life of their products to maximum before replacement. What does that mean for a normally-successful company?

Redundancies of hundreds of people in a division, closure of a recently launched regional expansion, cancelling a step-change major project. This can mean losing promising, talented, and creative people. Leaders can struggle with how to react when the business makes such decisions.



By Simon Sinek, US author on leadership and motivational speaker

NOTE: Comment by Wendy Lambourne, DIRECTOR, LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP, follows this summary.

Captain William Swenson was recently awarded the US Congress’s Medal of Honor for his actions on September 8, 2009. On that day, a column of American and Afghan troops came under ambush. Among many other actions, Captain Swenson was recognised for running into live fire to rescue the wounded and pull out the dead.

One of the people he rescued was a sergeant who was making his way to a medevac helicopter. One of the medevac medics happened to have a GoPro camera on his helmet and captured the scene on camera. The video shows Captain Swenson and his comrade bringing the wounded soldier in and putting him in the helicopter. And then you see Captain Swenson bend over and give the soldier a kiss before he turns around to rescue more.

I saw this, and I thought to myself, “Where do people like that come from? What is that, what deep emotion? There’s a love there.” And I wanted to know why I don’t have people that I work with like that.

In the military, they give medals to people who are willing to sacrifice themselves so that others may gain. In business, we give bonuses to people who are willing to sacrifice others so that we may gain. We have it backwards.

So I asked myself, where do people like this come from? My initial conclusion was that they’re just better people, they are attracted to the concept of service.

But that’s wrong. What I learned (after meeting some of these heroes) was that it’s the environment. If you get the environment right, every one of us has the capacity to do these remarkable things.

I asked them, “Why would you do it? Why did you do it?” And they all said the same thing: “Because they would have done it for me.”

It’s this deep sense of trust and cooperation.

The problem with concepts of trust and cooperation is that they are feelings, they are not instructions. I can’t simply instruct you to trust me.

So where does that feeling come from?

50,000 years ago, for early homo sapiens, the world was filled with danger, with many forces working very hard to kill us: the weather, lack of resources, sabre-toothed tigers, etc. And so we evolved into social animals, living and working together in a circle of safety, inside the tribe, where we felt we belonged.

When we felt safe among our own, the natural reaction was trust and cooperation. The inherent benefits of this are that I can fall asleep at night and trust that someone from my tribe will watch for danger.

The modern day is the same. The world is filled with danger. But now it is generally the ups and downs in the economy, the uncertainty of the stock market, new technology that renders your business model obsolete overnight, or competition that is sometimes trying to “kill” you.

We have no control over these forces. The only variables are the conditions inside the organisation, and that’s where leadership matters, because it’s the leader that sets the tone. When a leader makes the choice to put the safety and lives of the people in the organisation first, to sacrifice their comforts and sacrifice tangible results so that the people who remain  feel safe and feel they belong, remarkable things happen.

On an aeroplane trip, I was witness to an incident where a passenger attempted to board before his number was called. I watched the gate agent treat this man as though he had broken the law, like a criminal.

So I said, “Why do you have to treat us like cattle? Why can’t you treat us like human beings?”

The gate agent said, “Sir, if I don’t follow the rules, I could get into trouble or lose my job.” She was telling me that she doesn’t feel safe, she doesn’t trust her leaders. The reason we like flying Southwest Airlines is not because they necessarily hire better people; it’s because they don’t fear their leaders.

If the conditions are wrong, we are forced to expend our own time and energy to protect ourselves from each other, and that inherently weakens the organisation. When we feel safe inside the organisation, we naturally combine our talents and our strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities.

The closest analogy to what being a great leader is, is being a parent. So what makes a great parent? We want to give our child opportunities, education, discipline them when necessary – all so that they can grow up and achieve more than we could for ourselves.

Great leaders want exactly the same thing.

Charlie Kim, CEO of Next Jump in New York City, a tech company, makes the point that if you had hard times in your family, would you ever consider laying off one of your children? Never.

Charlie implemented a policy of lifetime employment. If you get a job at Next Jump, you cannot get fired for performance issues. If you have issues, they will coach you and they will give you support.

This is the reason so many people have such a visceral hatred and anger at some of the banking CEOs about their disproportionate salaries and bonus structures. It’s not the numbers. It’s that they have violated the very definition of leadership. They have violated this deep-seated social contract: they have sacrificed their people to protect their own interests.

This is what so offends us, not the numbers. Would anybody be offended if we gave a $150 million bonus to Gandhi or to Mother Teresa?

Great leaders would never sacrifice the people to save the numbers. They would sooner sacrifice the numbers to save the people.

Bob Chapman runs a large manufacturing company in the Midwest called Barry-Wehmiller which, in 2008, lost 30 percent of its orders overnight. The company could no longer afford its labour pool – it needed to save $10 million. So the board began discussing layoffs.

Bob refused because he doesn’t believe in head counts; he believes in heart counts, and it’s much more difficult to reduce the heart count. And so the board came up with a furlough programme. Every employee, from secretary to CEO, was required to take four weeks of unpaid vacation.

But it was how Bob announced the programme that mattered. He said, “It’s better that we should all suffer a little than any of us should have to suffer a lot.”

Morale went up. The company saved $20 million. And most importantly, as would be expected when the people feel safe and protected by the leadership in the organisation, the natural reaction was to trust and cooperate.

Quite spontaneously – nobody expected it – people started trading with each other. Those who could afford it more would trade with those who could afford it less. Some people would take five weeks so that somebody else only had to take three.

Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank. I know many senior people in organisations who are absolutely not leaders, but are authorities. We do what they say because they have authority over us, but we would not follow them. And I know many people who are at the bottoms of organisations who have no authority but are absolutely leaders.

I heard a story of some US Marines. As is the marines’ custom, the officer ate last, and he let his men eat first. When they were done, there was no food left for him. But when they went back out in the field, his men brought him some of their food so that he could eat.

We call them leaders because they go first.

We call them leaders because they take the risk before anybody else does.

We call them leaders because they will choose to sacrifice so that their people may be safe and protected and so that their people may gain.

And the natural response is that our people will sacrifice for us. They will give us their blood and sweat and tears to see that their leader’s vision comes to life.

And when we ask them, “Why would you do that? Why would you give your blood and sweat and tears for that person?” they all say the same thing: “Because they would have done it for me.”

And isn’t that the organisation we would all like to work in?

COMMENT by Wendy Lambourne, Director, Legitimate Leadership:

In organisations today there are a lot of professional managers but very few leaders. The difference between the two is a matter of intent. Professional managers give, but in order to get. True leaders are genuinely here to give. Professional managers do have relationships with their people built on mutual trust and respect. They do an adequate job of enabling contributions by their people. But their people are still a means to an end. The end is the result. The result comes first and the people second.

Great leaders have it the other way round. Their people come first, before the results. Their people come first in good times and in bad – always. This is because they care about their people absolutely.

This talk by Simon Sinek provides the best explanation of Care as we understand it in the Legitimate Leadership Model that I have ever seen. 


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