By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.
QUESTION OF THE MONTH: What are the main determinants for a successful Legitimate Leadership implementation?
ANSWER: A Legitimate Leadership intervention is applicable in any organisation (no matter what its business or where it is located) where employee contribution makes a difference to the excellence in the organisation. Experience over the past two decades indicates that factors determine its success are: ownership by line management; positioning as an integral part of an organisation’s transformation agenda; initial and ongoing assessment; integration with organisational priorities; and accountability or consequence.
1. Ownership by line management
Leadership by definition is the responsibility of those in positions of authority in an organisation. As such a Legitimate Leadership intervention must be led by those in the line, not by the human resources function.
Core to the Legitimate Leadership ethos is that caring and growing people is what managers are there to do. Delegating this to the “people function” abrogates this responsibility. It undermines the legitimacy of those in authority, which is the essence of what a Legitimate Leadership intervention is seeking to achieve.
The human resources function has an important role to play in a Legitimate Leadership intervention, but it is not to lead it. Legitimate Leadership should be led by someone in the line; the higher up the line, the better.
2. Positioning as an integral part of an organisation’s transformation agenda
A Legitimate Leadership implementation works best when it is viewed as a strategic initiative and part of a broader organisational transformation. As with any strategic organisational development initiative, the deliverables (what Legitimate Leadership seeks to enable) need to be well defined up front; and progress against the deliverables needs to be monitored and reviewed, and appropriate action taken.
The make-up of the Organisational Transformation Steering Committee is also critically important. The best Legitimate Leadership interventions are those where the steering committee is chaired by line but includes representatives of all those, both internally (like human resources, continuous improvement specialists, possibly even employee representatives), and externally (Legitimate Leadership and other consultants) who have a contribution to make to organisational change.
Legitimate Leadership has never claimed to be a silver bullet. The best implementations have always been in organisations where care and growth have been one of a number of coordinated enablers of organisational transformation. It makes good sense for all those involved in the organisation’s transformation to work together to ensure a holistic and integrated approach to leading change.
3. Initial and ongoing assessment
The Legitimate Leadership model provides a set of criteria for leadership excellence. A key enabler of alignment to the criteria is measurement against them. All successful Legitimate Leadership implementations have included a diagnostic of the state of leadership against the Legitimate Leadership criteria, initially to establish a baseline measure and thereafter at regular intervals to track progress and determine appropriate action/next steps in the implementation journey.
The value of measurement is that it acts as a stimulus to action and focuses effort on the remedial actions which will give the most leverage in terms of individual and organisational change.
4. Integration with organisational priorities
For Legitimate Leadership to succeed it must be taken out of the classroom and applied to real organisational issues. If this is not the case, Legitimate Leadership is viewed as something which is done parallel to and separate from the business of the business.
A Legitimate Leadership intervention is most successful, therefore, when the Legitimate Leadership principles, tools and methodologies are applied to real issues in the organisation and are seen to add value in bringing about a step change in, for example, safety, performance, productivity, employee morale, efficiencies and customer satisfaction.
5. Accountability or consequence
A Legitimate Leadership intervention seeks to provide people and organisations with the Means and Ability to contribute. Sustainable contribution, however, requires a third variable and that is that people are held Accountable for contribution made. What this means is that there are positive consequences (praise and reward) for those who evince the Legitimate Leadership principles and practices, and negative consequences (censure and discipline) for those who do not.
In organisations where Legitimate Leadership principles flourish, it is clear that it is the “givers” who are rewarded and the “takers” who are sanctioned. Then, and only then, does Legitimate Leadership become a way of life in an organisation.
Those organisations where there has been a positive impact from a Legitimate Leadership intervention – in terms of increased legitimacy, trust, contribution and accountability, leading to improved results – have all demonstrated adherence to the above five criteria.