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Is It Better To Manage Or Lead In A Crisis?

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.

People trust those who care about them. But people also trust those who trust them, which suggests that the more managers empower their people in a crisis the more they are trusted. Or are they?

In a crisis the natural instinctive response of those in authority is to take back control. They assume the situation calls for strong, centralised dictate and believe that they are best placed to determine priorities, make smart trade-offs and decide what to do. They think that their people are looking to them to provide direction, to steer the ship through stormy waters. They feel honour-bound to swoop in and save the day.

And they are not entirely wrong. In times of crisis people want those in charge to do just that, take charge. If that means they have to give back some decision-making authority, so be it. It is a small price to pay to gain the security that “they” will decide what is best and find a solution in the face of the disaster.

People are looking for a saviour and senior management will generally want to be the saviour their people are looking for.

But at the end of the day, the price to pay for taking back control is simply too high. Taking back control often produces poorer decisions because they are being made by those removed from the action, a drop in motivation and commitment because people now feel their decisions no longer matter, and the demise of initiative and creativity. Taking back control also robs people of opportunities to prove their trustworthiness, breeds dependency and over time even resistance  to centralised control. Managers will be playing the game rather than watching it and lose perspective as a result. They may exhaust themselves to the point where they are no longer useful to their people.

Ironically though a crisis can actually give rise to empowerment – but by default rather than design. People get to make decisions because managers are absent or too busy doing to control. Tedious bureaucracy, including onerous reporting, falls away because there is just no time for it in a crisis. Consequently projects get done within a fraction of the time. More importantly, for the first time in a long time, the value of those on the frontline is appreciated . The focus shifts to giving those most critical to the organization what they need to deliver; productivity soars as a result.

Although it is difficult, scary and counter-intuitive, managers should deliberately choose empowerment over control in a crisis. If they don’t their default position will be to revert to control.

While policy and strategy decisions should stay at the top, execution should be pushed as far down the line as possible. Senior managers should resist the temptation to leap in and do, and rather empower their managers to empower their people to do. They should proactively seek opportunities in the crisis to give people increased or new responsibilities in order to accelerate their growth.

Once the crisis is over, authority handed over in the crisis should not be taken back. Similarly, the controls and reporting requirements that were there before the crisis should not all be resurrected. Managers should be as decisive post the crisis as they were in the crisis. They should trust their capability to make good decisions without the reams of information they previously thought they needed to do so.

In answer to the question, “is it better to manage or lead in a crisis?” – it is better to lead by a long chalk. It is better to lead than manage because there is much more to be gained than lost by doing so.  The gains in employee initiative, creativity, commitment, and motivation which empowerment brings, will outweigh the loss of predictable outcomes and fall sense of being in control.

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July 2020 – Question of the Month

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.

Question of the Month:In the Legitimate Leadership Model, what is the difference between leaders and professional managers?

Answer: 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. A true leader (who may be called ‘manager’) is genuinely there 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 leaders care about their people absolutely.

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Adrian Gore Writes About Simon Sinek’s Webinar On Leadership – Translating Purpose Into Impact

Adrian Gore is the founder and chief executive of South African healthcare and financial services group, Discovery Limited. Simon Sinek is an acclaimed American speaker, author and leadership expert.

COMMENT BY WENDY LAMBOURNE OF LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP ON THIS ARTICLE: The following words of wisdom from Simon Sinek accord absolutely with the Legitimate Leadership principles and practices: be open to counsel and have a vision of the future; change the “what” and “how” but not the “why”; the results matter, but leadership more so; focus on process not outcome and don’t miss the mountain due to a fixation on the summit.

ADRIAN GORE’S ARTICLE: In early June 2020 an excellent public dialogue webinar was hosted with Simon Sinek. All proceeds from the webinar went to South African community service organisation Afrika Tikkun (a client of Legitimate Leadership – editor) which works in underprivileged communities.

Simon reflected on a range of issues. I wanted to share a few of the main themes. Many of you will be familiar with Simon’s own journey of becoming a successful entrepreneur, and the challenges that came with it, until he came to understand the three levels of what, how and why – the so-called “Golden Circle” – that it is purpose that drives successful individuals and businesses.


When we think of leadership we often think about power, authority and control. Simon highlighted leadership qualities that get less prominence but are fundamentally more effective and enduring.

One comes from South Africa’s own former president Nelson Mandela who shared with Simon a story of his father (a local chief) who when meeting with others would always sit in a circle – and speak last. True leadership involves humility, being open to others, and expressing empathy. Simon pointed to the experience we’ve seen in the Covid-19 pandemic – with female leaders that exhibit these qualities typically faring better in their national responses: think of New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen and Germany’s Angela Merkel. Simon stressed that in a moment of crisis, it’s important to be open to counsel and have a vision for the future – the combination keeps people effective and inspired.


In Simon’s view, Covid-19 is not unprecedented in the pressure it is creating for businesses to transform. For example, the advent of the internet saw the demise of whole industries as some doubled down on old business models, while newer companies that thought differently thrived. Consider the following examples: there is no reason that eBook and Kindle could not have been invented by a publishing company, or Netflix by the broadcasting industry – they had far more resources and knowledge – it’s because they were stuck with old business models in a new world. We are seeing the same thing now. Those companies doing a better job of pivoting their businesses have a forward-looking view. Another difference is that those who are struggling tend to put themselves at the centre – it’s about company survival – while those doing well are putting the customer first. They are being creative with the resources they have. He gave an example of Chicago pizza shop Dimo’s who had to stop selling pizza by the slice, and realised they could use their super-hot pizza oven to melt plastic and create face shields, providing PPE to healthcare workers. The crisis is forcing companies to deliver on their ‘why’ – albeit in different manifestations.

The pandemic has also laid bare the fragility of the economy, and Simon reflected on the long-lasting changes that may be ingrained in the generation living through this while coming of age. We saw how those who were teens during the World Wars became frugal for their entire lives – what changes will we see in a generation whose course of life has now been irreparably changed?


Simon also spoke about what business can learn from the military, and the misconceptions about its culture and its leadership. Simon noted that the military is constantly trying to prepare people to operate in situations of extreme stress where nothing goes according to plan. There is a saying that no plan ever survives contact with the enemy; the analogy in business being that no plan ever survives contact with reality. Leadership is therefore critical, yet most businesses have poor or no business leadership training. In business we promote our top performers, not our best leaders. In the military, performance is important but the focus is on intangibles like loyalty, honour and caring deeply about those in your charge. Military leadership courses don’t assess the outcome of tests, but whether, while performing that test, you exhibited the qualities of a good leader. They understand that in the unpredictability of battle, bad missions can happen to good leaders, and good missions to bad leaders. Performance is important, but leadership more so.


In his now famous talk on millennials in the workplace, Simon comments on the factors that informed the context of the millennial generation, and their unique challenges and outlooks. What he observes most often is an impatience to reach their goals without appreciating the process of getting there – missing the mountain for the summit, in his analogy.

And while Millennials are often accused of ‘slacktivism’, we are seeing in Generation Z (typically born around 2004), a more active generation that organises and participates in protests, with a greater willingness to show up and do the work to create change. Simon’s view is that you cannot have service without sacrifice: while donations are helpful, it’s the physical work of showing up that creates a real sense of goodwill.


When asked about mentorship, Simon was of the view that mentorship is more akin to a friendship than one person bestowing their knowledge uni-directionally. Two qualities of a good mentor are that they evolve and always have time for you. Simon shared his own story of a mentor relationship that involved mutual learning – he wasn’t always the student and his mentor wasn’t always the teacher. They learnt from each other.

Finally, Simon spoke about his own company’s journey to survive in a time of Covid-19 and how they went back to their ‘why’ – their purpose of inspiring people to do the things that inspire them. They built an entirely new section on their website in two weeks, transitioned to online learning and made these live to maintain the human connection. People learned how to present online and the whole team came together behind a new way of doing things. They not only pivoted the business, they pivoted themselves.

If you have enjoyed this post, and Simon’s profound comments, which he shared freely with the goal of raising money for the work of Afrika Tikkun, please donate on:


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June 2020 – Question of the Month

By Ian Munro, director, Legitimate Leadership.

Question of the Month: What is the logic behind the various steps of a Legitimate Leadership intervention – the introductory workshop, the application modules, etc?

Answer:  The typical implementation process for a Legitimate Leadership intervention is underpinned by the following four steps.

First, we establish the two criteria of care and growth. We also introduce the insight that INTENT, not knowledge or skill alone, legitimises leadership. Skill helps, but without the right intent the will simply doesn’t engage.

Second, we diagnose against these two criteria. Are your leaders caring for and growing your people at every level? If yes, fantastic. If not, what are they doing wrong?

Third, we work to support our clients in remediating behaviour. Once we understand the core issues, we get to work supporting our clients in dealing with them. We provide leaders with the knowledge, tools, techniques and skills required to shift behaviour and make care and growth real day-to-day.

Lastly, we develop enabling structures. We work closely with our clients to address structure and process. We look at areas such as role descriptions, reporting lines, performance management systems and disciplinary processes.

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Leadership Antidotes To Uncertainty

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.

People like certainty. In uncertain times that need becomes a craving which people look to their leadership to satisfy.

While it is tempting for leaders to give their people assurances – that the war will be won, the business will survive, a cure will be found – that is the last thing that they should do.

Firstly, by setting themselves up as seers, they put themselves at risk of being blamed when their predictions do not come to pass. More importantly, guarantees of positive outcomes by leaders breeds dependency on them by their people. They take away from their people what makes them strong – a sense of ownership and responsibility for the situation they are in.

Rather than certainty of outcome, leaders should give their people certainty of purpose and contribution. Unlike certainty with respect to the future, both of these are within the leader’s control to deliver. Together, they go a long way to quell the fears that uncertainty brings.


While the “how” or the “what” may have to change in a crisis, the “why” should remain constant.

All organisations have a reason for existing which is bigger than simply winning or being the best. Simon Sinek calls this “why” a Just Cause. It is about advancing something eminently worthwhile, something which inspires people’s commitment and solicits in them a preparedness to sacrifice and to persevere in the face of setbacks and hardships.

In a crisis leaders need to rally their people – not around the achievement of finite goals but around a noble purpose. A leader’s resolve to stay true to the organisation’s contributary purpose provides their people with an anchor to hold onto in all the unpredictability. By giving their people a cause bigger than themselves to hang onto, leaders instil in their people a sense of meaning despite the sea of uncertainty.


In any situation, what we “get” is never entirely within our control. However, what we “give” absolutely sits in our own hands. Daniele Bolelli puts it eloquently as: “Victory or defeat are largely out of my control, but putting up a good fight … putting up the kind of fight that makes the earth shake and the gods blush, this I can do.”

In times of crisis, leaders need to help their people shift their attention away from uncertain future outcomes to what they can “give” uniquely under the circumstances. They need to work with their people to co-determine the contribution that each is willing and able to commit to making. Given the fluidity of the situation, each person’s “give” needs to be ascertained, not once-off but on an ongoing basis, as circumstances change and people grow.

Certainty of contribution is a great enabler of contribution. Knowing exactly what one can do to help, no matter how little, provides each individual with the impetus to make a contribution. By focusing their people on giving their all rather than outcome, leaders help their people to lessen the fear which holds them prisoner.

Leaders cannot, with the best will in the world take away the uncertainty, but they can reduce the fear and anxiety that uncertainty breeds. They do so by clarifying and then enabling their people to make a value-added contribution. They also ensure that there is a clear line of sight between their people’s contribution and the contributory purpose of the organisation.


There is one more thing that leaders can do for their people in uncertain times.  Not all, but some people, are literally paralysed by uncertainty.  They are like rabbits frozen in the headlights and unable to move.

The leadership antidote here is to help those immobilised and ‘stuck’ to get ‘unstuck’ and regain their power.  Leaders do this by helping their people to reorientate their attention to the future, focus on what is in their control and to act.

The moment their people take action they are no longer ‘stuck’.  They have simultaneously increased their ‘circle of influence; and reduced their ‘circle of concern’.

There are then three antidotes to uncertainty – certainty of purpose, certainty of contribution, and shifting people out of paralysis and into action.

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The Role Of HR In Assisting Line Managers To Demonstrate Care In A Crisis

Below is a report on the Legitimate Leadership webinar held on this subject on 7 May 2020 (with some questions and answers at the end). The Legitimate Leadership presenters were Wendy Lambourne and Leanne Maree. 

Legitimate Leadership says that only if you are seen to care will you be trusted by those who report to you. People will only consent to being led if their leader cares for them (primarily) and grows them.

So how does human resources (HR) help leaders in their organisations to care for their people?

The conventional view is that care is about looking after people’s physical and material needs. This is true. Particularly in the Covid-19 crisis, line managers need ensure people’s safety and health – for instance PPE (personal protective equipment), screening and social distancing.

They also need to do the best they can, within their means, to ensure that people’s pay needs are catered for. The capacity of companies to do this differs. For instance in the first world, government support is generally much greater than in the developing world.

Some companies can pay 100%; some companies can pay nothing. But trust in leadership will not necessarily differ between those extremes! Appropriate care does not mean paying 100% if that means the business will be out of business.

Legitimate Leadership has identified six key roles that HR can play, to enable line managers to care.

But care is not just about physical matters and pay. The giving should be not just of things but of self.

The How of care is also important. In other words, the care must make employees stronger in the crisis and not do the opposite.

The three care Gives are: Time and attention; Honesty; and Tough Love.

Time and attention.

There is an inextricable link between what you care about and time and attention paid to it. If a leader doesn’t give time to his people then they will inevitably conclude that they are not his focus. So there is a need to especially increase time and attention in a crisis. Most of all, the leader should be spending time listening to his people to establish where each individual is (because people’s level of response differs) on the following three: mindset; positivity; and degree to which they feel in control.

Leaders must ascertain and acknowledge – and not judge or tell people to be different. No one calms down as a result of being told to calm down. But leaders can help people to progress from left to right on each of the three.


Communication is obviously very important in a crisis. More important than the medium (video, management briefing, face-to-face, etc), or even the content (what you say), is who is doing the communicating. Managers individually and collectively will only be trusted if they are communicating with their people in their best interests. Management cannot communicate things in their interest but withhold some information that they think may not be in management’s own interests. Honesty means being prepared to disclose information that you are not actually required to disclose. And leaders must not protect their people by withholding information because then they are not treating them as adults.

When a leader is trusting of his people and discloses to them information which he does not have to disclose, they will demonstrate their trustworthiness in return.

Tough love

The degree to which people are impacted by the crisis will differ. Some people will suffer a little, others will suffer hugely. The issue is: are their leaders aware of this and do they show concern? Leaders should be compassionate, kind and magnanimous (not so much in money but in generosity of spirit – that is, cut them some slack and show understanding of what they are going through). In responding it is very important for a leader to first ask, “What is the caring but at the same time enabling thing to do here?” That is, don’t make them small, but big. Don’t decide for them, don’t encourage dependency, don’t patronise them. Help them stand on their own two feet. Enable them to understand, if not overcome, the difficult circumstances. People will then be robust, trustworthy and will take responsibility despite their circumstances.


The personal wellbeing of employees is often largely shaped and impacted by the organisations where they work and by their line manager.

Legitimate Leadership has identified six key roles, below, that HR can play, to enable line managers to care. HR should be aware that line managers will be looking at HR to do many of these things for them. But fundamentally, HR cannot do the care thing for them. If they do, they will disenable them. However, there are many things that HR can do to enable line managers to care.

Being the people’s conscience regarding care

HR is the ombudsman of making sure that employees are treated fairly and that organisational decisions take into account their personal and mental wellbeing and growth opportunities. It is HR’s responsibility to ensure that any interventions by the organisation are balanced with the collective interests of employees, and that employees are represented in the discussions. This is tricky because HR constantly has to navigate between the employees’ and the organisation’s requirements. For instance, the organisation may not be able to keep paying people because this may not be sustainable longer term. So, for example, HR, the people’s conscience, must ask whether a reduction in hours can be negotiated.

HR must ensure that line managers are able to react to the short-term crisis but still ensure that there is a sustainable future for all.

HR must also ensure that the leadership’s actions are a reflection of the organisation’s values, and continue to hold leadership accountable for this. And, at least in Legitimate Leadership-aligned businesses, a core value is care.

HR should ask, “What do we want to be known for and remembered for by all our stakeholders?”

Being the expert on people care policies

New legislation, some of it temporary, is being enacted continually – changes in unemployment insurance funds, working hours, work-from-home rules, social distancing rules, wearing masks, etc. This has a significant impact on compliance in organisations. It is HR’s role to research and synthesise all this.

Line managers by contrast are focused on production and getting services and operations done. They do not have the opportunity or time to research legislation, for instance. HR can have a huge impact here by responding to changes quickly, and aligning care policies to ensure compliance.

Most importantly, HR needs to be much better at communicating the changes in these policies and the reasons for them, to line managers – so that they understand them. Because only when line managers understand them will they be able to communicate and execute the changes. Otherwise HR will see resistance and ‘the complaining process’ – it is easier to moan than to do.

HR should not arrogantly think that it gets it right in being a service provider to line managers – it must always go back to engage and listen to them about responding to the difficulties in practice in executing change policies.

Providing guidance on the How and the Why of care

Legitimacy of leadership only happens when there is trust. Trust and willingness of employees are engaged when they perceive that the leader cares about them. That is when they are prepared to make sacrifices and go the extra mile for the leader.

Care has no strings attached and is strong and kind.

As in our personal lives, in the heat of the fight/crisis, it’s not what the leader says to you but how it makes you feel, that creates the lingering memory. When the sky is falling around you, if your leader makes you feel that he/she cares for you, that is what you will remember in that relationship.

Communication is HR’s kryptonite. HR often makes mistakes, gives too much information, gives misleading information, or overwhelms line managers with volume – “I have 800 unread emails.”

If the messages are confusing, you’re losing. Be sure to choose your words carefully when you coach leaders on the How. Coach them on how to listen, to understand, to communicate. And that they need to continually hold employees accountable for delivery to standard – because a fundamental aspect of care is holding people accountable.

Being the trusted adviser to line managers on specific people care issues

HR often has huge swathes of responsibility in an organisation – but little authority. And HR often has functional expertise that their clients (line managers) do not – but often line managers don’t want to hear it from HR and possibly don’t even respect them.

So, if it is not in place, a key role for HR is to start gaining the respect and even the liking of their clients – a relationship of trust – in order to be effective in the role. HR must seek to become the trusted business adviser and the trusted partner of line management.

People trust you when they know that you have their back, that you are there in the trenches supporting their initiatives and not sitting on the sidelines and complaining about people in sales, production, marketing, etc.

So, have their backs and be supportive.

Hand-in-hand with care is HR’s role in ensuring that there is fairness and consistency in the treatment of employees. They should ensure that line managers understand the difference between fairness and consistency, and that they execute fairness and consistency in all their dealings and treatments with staff.

Fairness means treating employees appropriately and individually – as each one comes to work with different circumstances, anxieties and energy levels. Fairness also means taking due consideration of circumstances, performances and contributions.

Consistency is about taking appropriate action when a standard is breached. It does not necessarily have to be the same action. It must be appropriate to what was preached and what the employee’s intention was – careless, malicious, etc.

The leader must always act with the same intent.

HR must ensure that the maintenance of standards is still a critical deliverable. HR must assist in holding people accountable where they have been malicious – for instance in the spreading of false emails or fake news or breaching of safety standards or the cutting of corners deliberately. HR must help line managers to speed up the disciplining process in these instances – and to give recognition and gratitude when appropriate. For instance, enable line managers to recognise employees who are displaying careful behaviours – adhering to safety, quality and other standards.

And HR must assist line managers to reward employees commensurately with their added value – their added deliverables during the crisis (which can be reviewed after the crisis has passed).

Making sure that line managers are cared for as well

A crisis is a good time to get close to line managers, to walk the path with them. Good relationships with their support services will enable line managers to keep calm and carry on – and enable teams to feel safe and secure.

HR needs to ensure that line managers are taking care of themselves mentally and physically so that they can be fully present, calm and in control. A crisis is fuelled when composure is missing.

HR must engage with line managers to assess where they are at, and listen to and understand their concerns, fears and frustrations – but they should also constantly remind line managers that not only must they hold their people accountable, but they will in turn be held accountable.

So HR needs to get out in into the trenches with their line managers and build these relationships of trust.


Q: Is there any difference between care in a crisis and care in normal times?

A: There isn’t a real difference between what leaders should do. In a crisis they must do what they have always done but they must do more of it. David Ulrich says leadership actions are magnified in a crisis and they leave lingering memories. In a crisis, you have to be even better at care.

Q: Should HR or line managers try and encourage a feeling of certainty or positivity among employees?

A: No, you can deliver time and attention, honesty and tough love; you cannot deliver certainty. And it is okay to say, “I don’t know.” Information and legislation surrounding this pandemic is changing daily, so leaders should not put stress on themselves to provide information in advance. They will exhaust themselves trying to plan for every scenario. The only certainty we can give people is that we will tell them the truth.

HR may find itself torn between trying to be positive to buoy people, and the sombre reality. They won’t want to overly upset people who are really having a bad time, so what note should they strike?

HR’s responsibility is to be honest and reflective of the situation – it will lose credibility if it is too polyanna-ish. And it is okay for anyone to have a bad day, to be sombre.

It may be important for HR to share why it is feeling what it is feeling and own how its mood may be affecting how it is communicating.

Likewise for line managers. Often they try to buoy people, or try to provide certainty when there is none so that people will feel better. But then they are essentially lying to employees –pretending to know the future when that is impossible.

Q: Surely holding people to account during a crisis increases the stress on them?

A: Care is only care if you still hold people accountable. In this crisis, line managers may say, “But my people are so frightened, they are coming to work because what we do is an essential service. How can I now add to their anxiety by holding them accountable, insisting on adherence to standards? And how can I even insist that they come to work?”

In fact, that is exactly what care means.

And you cannot hold people accountable if your expectations of them have not been fully clarified upfront. The starting point is to make it absolutely clear that you are an essential service, you have to operate, and the expectation of employees is that they do come to work, that they do the best job that they can, and that in no way do standards (particularly standards pertaining to safety and quality) decline during this time.

And employees should be told that they will be held accountable for this.

Line managers may well receive this advice from HR with relief. HR cannot do this for them but if they are trusted advisers, line managers will be seeking their counsel and advice. HR’s job is to give them the right advice that will enable them to do the care thing during the crisis.

Q: How can I know as an HR professional that I am doing a good job in enabling line managers?

A: Your workload during this time may be huge! HR has generally risen to this challenge! After the crisis, the diagnostics will reveal that. But if you want to know how well you are doing now, ask the recipients of your interventions whether they are happy with what you are delivering, whether you can do something else for them, what they expect from you. Keep communicating and exchanging ideas. And you may liaise with your professional bodies or equivalent colleagues in other companies or departments to check your interactions. But if your intent is nothing but the sound and good interests of the employees, you’re on the right track.

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May 2020 – Question of the Month

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.

Question of the Month:We have set the rules for social distancing, communicated them and the Why behind them. People have been given the means to comply but some still don’t do so. We have been “nice” about it, reminding people over and over, but in some instances, to no avail. Should we now sanction the transgressors – maybe even fire those who won’t adhere to the social distancing protocols?

Answer: Social distancing is no different from any other behavioural standard and will not be adhered to unless all seven requirements below are met:

  1. Role model – everyone in a leadership role needs to provide the example for others to follow.
  2. Define – the standard needs to be simple, clear and exact.
  3. Communicate – the standard needs to be communicated especially the Why (keep everyone safe), and preferably face-to-face.
  4. Understand – the “means” and “ability” needed to comply.
  5. Provide the means – the sanitisers, the demarcations of 2m, the facemasks and so on.
  6. Ability – there is no skill involved but the Why has to be in the people’s best interests.
  7. Hold people accountable against the standard for their intent:
  • Discipline for deliberate malevolence (for reasons of justice), bearing in mind that at some point repeated carelessness should be treated as malevolence.
  • Censure for carelessness (to stop careless and encourage careful).
  • Praise for careful (thank those who comply – it is only good manners).
  • Reward for extra mile (holding others to account as well as demonstrating excellence – it is only fair).

It would appear in this case that the first six requirements have been satisfied and now it is time for accountability, BUT:

  • Make sure there is both positive and negative accountability.
  • Consult with respect to the appropriate sanction – although ultimately only you can decide. Ensure the sanction is neither too harsh nor too lenient.
  • Communicate in advance what the consequence will be so that there are no surprises.
  • Stay firm in the face of kickback, if it arises. Show that you are serious about the standard.
  • Remember that your intention is to save lives.
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Mentoring – Helping Future Leaders To Find Their Compass

By Ian Munro, director, Legitimate Leadership.

Leading people is not the same as writing code, operating a machine or compiling a document. Writing code is a skill. It can be taught and learned in a classroom or on the job. The issue is ability. The same could be said for operating a machine or compiling a document.

Leadership is different. The primary issue for excellence in leadership is intent, not ability. Is the leader willing to suspend his or her agenda in the interests of others? Today’s most enabling leaders have earned legitimacy not because they are good at any particular leadership skills, but because they have repeatedly passed the “intent test”. Of course, they may possess well-developed leadership skills as well, but it is their maturity, their capacity to act above self-interest, their willingness to align to a deliberately-chosen set of fundamental values, that people find compelling.

Unfortunately, values cannot be taught. Teaching applies to skills and abilities. Values are not skills or abilities. Values talk to judgement, to integrity, to intent, to maturity. The person who helps you to develop these, as an adult, we refer to as a mentor.

In South Africa in particular, but also more generally in countries where we operate, people entering the workplace have very different starting points when it comes to values.

As children we learn values and associated behaviours from our parents, our extended families, our communities and our schools. In South Africa, despite their best intentions, many parents are simply too impacted by their working circumstances (long commutes, work away from home, two working parents, single working parent) to have the time to deliberately develop their children’s value systems. Extended families are often absent too. Communities frequently offer the poorest of role models. There are some fantastic schools and teachers that are increasingly focusing on values and service as guiding principles. But unfortunately these types of schools and teachers are not in the majority.

Example: a few years ago I had a conversation with a graduate working as an apprentice – learning what he could in the field of law. Thinking him one of the lucky ones who managed to find employment as a graduate, I asked how he was finding his job. “The job is good,” he replied (paraphrasing), “my concern, though, is that I don’t earn very much and my friends call me a sell-out because they say I am working for too little and I allow myself to be taken advantage of. Of course, they say this while I am paying for their drinks, so I try not to take them too seriously. But it is a problem. Do you think I am doing the right thing? Should I demand more money? Am I being taken advantage of? Should I quit if I don’t get the increase I demand?”

I am certain that this person’s experience is not unique. I have spoken to other young individuals who, at the first sign of difficulty, have asked me for my opinion on whether they should resign. These cases almost never relate to technical difficulty; almost always they are about relationships: “My boss doesn’t treat me well”; “I don’t like my colleagues”; “I can’t trust management”.

The strange thing about these situations is not the questions. The questions are normal. The strange thing is that the people asking me these questions have typically known me for less than a day.

Being in the fortunate position of having a mentor to turn to, I would probably have asked my father. My father would probably have said something like: “Well, what have you done to impact the relationship negatively? What have you tried to do to change her mind? It takes two to tango.”

This advice would likely have been very helpful, and also very different from the advice I would have received had I asked my similarly disaffected colleague-friends. The conversation I would have had with my mentor father would have challenged me to take ownership, to not run away, to do the right thing, and not the expedient thing. In short, I would have come away from the conversation a little more grown-up, a little stronger, a little less of a victim.

While I imagine that many leaders currently reading this article can recall similar stories relating to their early mentors, there are far too many young people today who have never had a mentor-type figure in their lives.

As the current leaders of future generations of managers and leaders we can certainly help. One way to do that is to make mentoring as much a part of the development landscape in our organisations as is skills training. A structured, maturity-focused, mentoring programme provides the mechanism.

Guidelines for implementing a mentoring programme in your organisation

As said before, at Legitimate Leadership we believe that teaching and training are good ways to build skills, that coaching is about developing competency, and that mentoring is about intent, values and, ultimately, maturity. These distinctions are important.

In our experience formalised mentoring programs are either totally absent, or frequently play second-fiddle to skills development programmes. Skills development is important, but so is mentoring. Mentoring is about helping individuals to develop judgement, to build networks that will challenge and expand their thinking, to make a contribution for reasons other than self-interest, to build better organisations and societies.

Implementing a mentoring programme that achieves the outcomes above isn’t easy (few worthwhile things are), but it is certainly an attainable goal in any organisation. Here are some guidelines:

  1. The programme must be genuinely opt-in – for both the mentors and mentees.
  2. Mentees must choose their mentors.
  3. Both individuals must be open to growing through the process, and both individuals must be willing to check their rank at the door.
  4. Mentors don’t have to have all the answers, but they should be willing to ask the difficult questions.
  5. Mentoring only works if individuals are willing to make time for one another, give one another attention, and stick to some basic ground rules.
  6. In mentoring, confidentiality is everything.
  7. An unethical and/or self-centred mentor will likely produce an unethical and/or self-centred mentee.
  8. Use a catalyst (initial workshop, coffee sessions, etc) to get things going on the right track.
  9. Ensure that mentors understand the difference between mentoring, skills development, and coaching.
  10. Setting goals and understanding expectations is critical.
  11. Set up opportunities for formal reflection.
  12. Agree an end-point. It’s hard to know how to pace yourself when there is no end in sight.
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Nothing Like A Crisis To Bring The Chickens Home To Roost

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.

In the midst of a strike, a shop steward told me, “Now the chickens will come home to roost!” He was saying the current fraught relationship had been made in the past and management’s poor historical relationship was about to come back and bite them.


A crisis confronts leaders with their past deeds. How their people respond is determined by whether, as leaders, they are seen to have previously been in the relationship to “give” or to “take”. Leaders who have put their people first, will have people who will respond tenfold and give whatever it takes to weather the storm. Conversely, leaders who have put the results first, should not be surprised if their people don’t come to the fore, give little if at all, and may even rebel or jump ship during the crisis.

In short, leaders determine whether their people will rally or scatter in a crisis by the way they have led them in the past.


Past actions cannot be undone. Only the present and the future can be changed. But how leaders engage with their people in the current crisis is all-important because as David Ulrich says, “The stress of a crisis magnifies actions and creates lingering memories”.  What leaders say and do during a crisis may be forgiven but will never be forgotten. There will be consequences to them of their actions for a long time to come.

A crisis however offers leaders a golden opportunity, if they take it, to reset the relationship with their people and take it to greater heights. This is because there are crucial moments in any crisis. What leaders do then can lead to an irretrievable breakdown in the relationship or create the conditions which will capture the hearts and minds of their people like never before.


In every interaction that leaders have with their people they should elect to do the right, rather than the expedient, thing. They should be compassionate or courageous, whichever is appropriate at the time.

To do so they should understand the following “laws” of human interaction between people in any situation:

  • There are only two options for any party; to act on the basis of what they want to “get” or what they choose to “give”. To act in pursuit of their own or others’ best interests.
  • When a party acts on what they want to “get” in an interaction, they are weak, not strong. They put themselves in a situation where others can withhold from them what they want. The more they want to “get” the more manipulable they become.
  • Any party is only in control of their side of the transaction and should therefore take care of that and not concern themselves with what they have no control over.
  • How any party acts in an interaction is a function of their maturity. Immature people will be concerned with meeting their own needs, getting what they believe they are entitled to and having their demands met. Mature people will focus on what they should be contributing, on doing their duty, on being values rather than needs driven.

Based on this, leaders in a crisis need to cease to want anything from their people – be it trust, willingness, loyalty or performance. They then need to do what is appropriate without trying to engineer an outcome.

It is appropriate for leaders to demonstrate gratitude to, and applaud, the “givers” in their charge – and to be intolerant of the

“takers”. They should reward those who go above and beyond in the crisis. And they should not acquiesce to the demands, or allow themselves to be manipulated by, those who are not willing to do their duty. They should insist that the “takers” do their bit to the best of their ability and hold them accountable for doing so.

Leaders will always be criticised in a crisis. But the more they rise above self-interest to do the right thing, the more their people will experience them as sincere. The more they are seen to be values rather than needs driven, the more they will be trusted.

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There Are Only Two Must-Haves For Leading In A Crisis

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.

There will always be a debate about which traits are most important for leading in a crisis – but two absolute essentials are compassion and courage, in that order.

For some leaders either or both of these qualities are fundamental aspects of their nature; they are part of their DNA. But ultimately, both compassion and courage are not a matter of genetics so much as they are a choice or a matter of the will. They can therefore be fostered or cultivated in leaders who do not naturally have these qualities.

Leaders in a crisis who lack compassion and courage can blame nobody but themselves. Both of these qualities are within their reach; they sit in their hearts. In a crisis, leaders choose to bring these qualities to the fore or lack the will to do so.

With every compassionate or courageous act, leaders develop their capacity to be more compassionate and courageous. They increasingly become the leaders their people need to be led by in a crisis.


Leaders who have compassion have strong feelings of sympathy and sadness for the misfortune of their people coupled with a desire to mitigate or alleviate their pain. Put simply, their hearts bleed for their people, not for themselves. Compassion in a leader is notable in the following respects:

  1. Compassion or lack of it in a leader bears no relationship to experience. There are leaders who have never experienced what their people are experiencing and never will do so, but who can still identify and relate to their people’s privation. Other leaders have been subjected to similar hardship, and feel very sorry for themselves, but can’t find the same level of feeling when it comes to their people’s suffering.
  2. Compassion should not be judged by the amount of emotion displayed. Some leaders’ genuine empathy is indeed conveyed in heartfelt words or in tears, to the point that they may appear too emotional to speak. Others, equally moved, show little visible emotion but their actions bespeak their feelings.
  3. Whether leaders are compassionate or not is decided not by themselves but by their people, who make up their own minds as to the sincerity of their leader’s concern. From experience people have an uncanny sense of what is in their leader’s heart – and usually they are right.

Why is compassion of such significance? Because people’s need to be understood by their leaders and to feel that their leaders care deeply about what they are going through is amplified a thousand-fold in times of crisis – even if what the leader can actually do to help them is limited. Leaders who are indifferent to what their people are experiencing leave their people stone cold. Truly compassionate leaders, on the other hand, are not just liked but loved by those they lead.


Courage is not about thoughts and feelings but about words and deeds. Courageous leaders do the right thing in a crisis, no matter how difficult it is for them to do so. In plain language they face what needs to be faced and do what needs to be done for the greater good of others. Courage in a leader is notable in the following respects:

  1. Leaders who have courage are not devoid of fear, worry and angst – but do not let these feelings control or define them. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Courage is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it.”
  2. When leaders are courageous they don’t dither or delay but act decisively. This is not because they know what the right call is but because they understand that a call has to be made. Despite the uncertainty they take a stance and follow through on it no matter how unpopular it is. They then do not let pride stand in the way of overturning their decisions if evidence suggests that they should do so.
  3. Like any human being, courageous leaders want to save their own skin, protect their interests and enjoy the good opinion of others. Yet they do not let these things deter them from self-sacrifice and even inflicting pain on their people if that is in the longer term best interests of all.

Why is courage of such significance? Because in times of peril and calamity, people need their leaders to be bold, to put themselves on the line. It helps them to do so also. Conversely when leaders are cowards they breed fear in their followers. Courageous leaders, on the other hand, make their people courageous. This earns them the trust and admiration of their people.

In essence, the leaders who are revered in a crisis are those who have both a soft and a brave heart.

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April 2020 – Question of the Month

By Ian Munro, director, Legitimate Leadership.

Question of the Month: Many young leaders are struggling to find their compass – can structured mentoring programmes help?

Answer: Leading people is not the same as writing code, operating a machine or compiling a document. Writing code is a skill. It can be taught and learned in a classroom or on the job. The issue is ability. The same could be said for operating a machine or compiling a document.

Leadership is different. The primary issue for excellence in leadership is intent, not ability. Is the leader willing to suspend his or her agenda in the interests of others? Today’s most enabling leaders have earned legitimacy not because they are good at any particular leadership skills, but because they have repeatedly passed the “intent test”. Of course, they may possess well-developed leadership skills as well, but it is their maturity, their capacity to act above self-interest, their willingness to align to a deliberately-chosen set of fundamental values, that people find compelling.

Unfortunately, values cannot be taught. Teaching applies to skills and abilities. Values are not skills or abilities. Values talk to judgement, to integrity, to intent, to maturity. The person who helps you to develop these, as an adult, we refer to as a mentor.

In South Africa in particular, but also more generally in countries where we operate, people entering the workplace have very different starting points when it comes to values.

As children we learn values and associated behaviours from our parents, our extended families, our communities and our schools. In South Africa, despite their best intentions, many parents are simply too impacted by their working circumstances (long commutes, work away from home, two working parents, single working parent) to have the time to deliberately develop their children’s value systems. Extended families are often absent too. Communities frequently offer the poorest of role models. There are some fantastic schools and teachers that are increasingly focusing on values and service as guiding principles. But unfortunately these types of schools and teachers are not in the majority.

Example: a few years ago I had a conversation with a graduate working as an apprentice – learning what he could in the field of law. Thinking him one of the lucky ones who managed to find employment as a graduate, I asked how he was finding his job. “The job is good,” he replied (paraphrasing), “my concern, though, is that I don’t earn very much and my friends call me a sell-out because they say I am working for too little and I allow myself to be taken advantage of. Of course, they say this while I am paying for their drinks, so I try not to take them too seriously. But it is a problem. Do you think I am doing the right thing? Should I demand more money? Am I being taken advantage of? Should I quit if I don’t get the increase I demand?”

I am certain that this person’s experience is not unique. I have spoken to other young individuals who, at the first sign of difficulty, have asked me for my opinion on whether they should resign. These cases almost never relate to technical difficulty; almost always they are about relationships: “My boss doesn’t treat me well”; “I don’t like my colleagues”; “I can’t trust management”.

The strange thing about these situations is not the questions. The questions are normal. The strange thing is that the people asking me these questions have typically known me for less than a day.

Being in the fortunate position of having a mentor to turn to, I would probably have asked my father. My father would probably have said something like: “Well, what have you done to impact the relationship negatively? What have you tried to do to change her mind? It takes two to tango.”

This advice would likely have been very helpful, and also very different from the advice I would have received had I asked my similarly disaffected colleague-friends. The conversation I would have had with my mentor father would have challenged me to take ownership, to not run away, to do the right thing, and not the expedient thing. In short, I would have come away from the conversation a little more grown-up, a little stronger, a little less of a victim.

While I imagine that many leaders currently reading this article can recall similar stories relating to their early mentors, there are far too many young people today who have never had a mentor-type figure in their lives.

As the current leaders of future generations of managers and leaders we can certainly help. One way to do that is to make mentoring as much a part of the development landscape in our organisations as is skills training. A structured, maturity-focused, mentoring programme provides the mechanism.

Guidelines for implementing a mentoring programme in your organisation

As said before, at Legitimate Leadership we believe that teaching and training are good ways to build skills, that coaching is about developing competency, and that mentoring is about intent, values and, ultimately, maturity. These distinctions are important.

In our experience formalised mentoring programs are either totally absent, or frequently play second-fiddle to skills development programmes. Skills development is important, but so is mentoring. Mentoring is about helping individuals to develop judgement, to build networks that will challenge and expand their thinking, to make a contribution for reasons other than self-interest, to build better organisations and societies.

Implementing a mentoring programme that achieves the outcomes above isn’t easy (few worthwhile things are), but it is certainly an attainable goal in any organisation. Here are some guidelines:

  1. The programme must be genuinely opt-in – for both the mentors and mentees.
  2. Mentees must choose their mentors.
  3. Both individuals must be open to growing through the process, and both individuals must be willing to check their rank at the door.
  4. Mentors don’t have to have all the answers, but they should be willing to ask the difficult questions.
  5. Mentoring only works if individuals are willing to make time for one another, give one another attention, and stick to some basic ground rules.
  6. In mentoring, confidentiality is everything.
  7. An unethical and/or self-centred mentor will likely produce an unethical and/or self-centred mentee.
  8. Use a catalyst (initial workshop, coffee sessions, etc) to get things going on the right track.
  9. Ensure that mentors understand the difference between mentoring, skills development, and coaching.
  10. Setting goals and understanding expectations is critical.
  11. Set up opportunities for formal reflection.
  12. Agree an end-point. It’s hard to know how to pace yourself when there is no end in sight.
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Caring For Your People In A Crisis – What It Means

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.

Leaders who make people not things paramount during a crisis will be seen to care. Those who do the opposite will rightfully be perceived as uncaring if not heartless.

Of course caring for one’s people means doing the best you can, within available resources, to look after their physical and material needs. Leaders who truly care also give their people time and attention, honesty and “tough love” during adverse times.

Their intention in all instances is to nurture or build strong people because strong people not only withstand, but may even overcome, their circumstances. Weak people, conversely, can wane even in the most benign set of conditions.

  1. Leaders who care give increased time and attention.

There is an inextricable link between what anyone cares about and what they give their time and attention to. Consequently leaders who care exponentially increase the amount of time they give to their people throughout a crisis. They take into every engagement with their people the understanding that individuals respond very differently to exactly the same set of circumstances – not only in terms of their level of anxiety but also in their mindset, ability to focus on the positive and level of optimism. They therefore listen very carefully to ascertain where each of their people has “landed” on three continuums:

  • I am a victim/not in control – I am in control/an actor, not a bystander.
  • I can only see negative effects/downsides – I see both positives and benefits.
  • I feel trapped/stuck with no room to move – I feel that the options are endless.

Having listened they do not judge but rather acknowledge where each of their people are at. Thereafter they stay close in order to assist each individual to progress along the three continuums; to stay positive, to seek options and to regain a sense of accountability for the situation they are in. They enable their people to be robust and resilient despite the difficulties they face.

  1. Leaders who care are honest with their people.

In any crisis, management communication is obviously key. Whether it is successful or not, however, is a function of the degree to which the source of the information is trusted. And what accounts for trust in the communicator is a belief by those being communicated to that the information sharing is being done with their best interests at heart. What this means is that leaders need to make a policy decision to be honest with their people on every occasion, even if it appears not to be in their interests to do so. They need to stay honest even if, in doing so, they may contradict their own needs.

In the first instance honesty means telling the truth – the good and the bad news. More than that, it means disclosing information that leaders could elect not to reveal. It means trusting their people to do the right thing with the information they have entrusted them with. Building strong people only happens when leaders stop protecting people by keeping the facts away from them. Enabling people means that leaders tell their people what they know, what they don’t know and what they can’t share with them. It means trusting their people so that they can demonstrate their trustworthiness.

  1. Leaders who care give “tough love”.

How leaders respond to the genuine personal concerns of their people during a crisis is a real test of their sincerity. To what degree are they, as leaders, aware of the actual impact of the crisis on their people and to what degree do they care? Leaders who care about their people’s personal circumstances relate to their people’s concerns; they have an understanding and appreciation of them. They are compassionate, not callous, in their response to those concerns. They are kind and magnanimous.

At the same time they evince “tough love”. They combine being kind with being enabling. They avoid being patronising or weakening. They don’t make decisions for their people but help them to decide. Rather than causing dependency, they help their people to stand on their own two feet. In every instance they ask “what is both the caring and enabling thing to do here?” In practising “tough love” they build people who not only feel supported but who also have a sense of responsibility in the situation they are in.

Leaders who care give their people time and attention, honesty and “tough love”. In doing so they make people strong – people who are able to be robust, resilient, trustworthy and responsible despite the circumstances they are in. This is true at all times but particularly in times of crisis.

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What Legitimate Leaders Do In Times Of Crisis

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.

Any group, any collective, is simply a reflection of those who lead it. Who you are as a leader, in other words, is reflected in those around you. This is true at any time but particularly in difficult times.

A crisis may or may not build character, but it definitely reveals character.

What legitimate leaders do in adverse conditions therefore, first and foremost, is look at themselves. They make themselves the project, knowing that the best they can do in tough times is set the example for others to follow. More specifically, they rise to the occasion by doing four things.


Legitimate leaders don’t run away or abandon ship like the captains of the Greek cruise ship Oceanos (1991) and the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia (2012). They do their duty. They don’t manage the crisis at a distance. They go to the frontline, to the scene of disaster. They are there in the trenches with their people and share the dangers with them. More than at any other time they demonstrate genuine care or concern for their employees’ wellbeing. They bear the same burdens and do not exclude themselves from them. They sacrifice as much or more than their people do.


Rudyard Kipling’s famous inspirational poem “If” begins with, “If you can keep your head when all about you/Are losing theirs …” Legitimate leaders stay calm in times of calamity. Above all, they don’t panic. They remain cool under fire. They keep a tight rein on their emotions. If not serene, they are at least not overly agitated or irrational. Like Admiral James Stockdale, who spent eight years in the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ prisoner-of-war camp during the Vietnam war, they balance optimism with reality. They remain convinced of a positive outcome while facing up to the hard facts in the present. Rather than burying their heads in the sand they accept the facts no matter how brutal they are.


Legitimate leaders operate from the standpoint that they may not be in full control of what happens but are absolutely in control of their response to what happens. They understand that there are things that are up to us and things that are not up to us. Consequently, they separate that which they can influence from that which they cannot. Then they focus their time and energies on what they do have control over – that is, what is in their hands. They don’t allow themselves to be distracted by external factors over which they have no influence. And they focus their efforts during the crisis where they can have the greatest impact. Above all, they act – they take decisions rather than falling foul to paralysis by analysis. They move forward and adjust course as they go.


Legitimate leaders recognise that we all have needs and that, unless we deliberately choose otherwise, we will naturally act to fulfill them. That is, we will do the expedient or self-serving rather than the right thing. Legitimate leaders are acutely aware of their own needs, fears and desires in the situation. But they don’t act on them. Rather, they find within themselves the capacity to rise above or even contradict their needs in order to do the right thing. Throughout the crisis they are values- not needs-driven. They reflect on what the situation in front of them requires of them – whether generosity or courage are called for. They then do the courageous or generous thing, whichever is most appropriate at the time.

In a crisis leaders are truly tested. What any crisis tests in essence is a leader’s capacity for kindness, selflessness and bravery. Those who pass the test with flying colours engender trust and loyalty; those who don’t engender the opposite.

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Lessons Learned From Doing Leadership Diagnostics

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.

Experience over the years working with leaders in the mining, manufacturing, banking and hospitality industries has produced the following insights on Legitimate Leadership’s Leadership Diagnostics methodology: do it with benevolent intent; do on both positive and negative exceptions; use with a specific purpose in mind; apply the tool to a specific incident or result; diagnose by ‘watching the game’; ask ‘why?’ all the way up the line; remedial action needs to be owned and driven by the line; be wary of excuses – invalid means and ability claims; the improvement timeframe will be shorter when means and accountability, rather than ability, are at issue; and do both reactive and proactive diagnostics.

1. Do it with benevolent intent

Leadership Diagnostics have a noble purpose: to enable enhanced future contribution throughout the line of command. As such, the methodology’s primary function is to grow leaders at every level in the organisation.


2. Do on both positive and negative exceptions

When diagnostics are only done on negative exceptions, the impression can be created that the methodology is used by management to censure and punish people. Doing diagnostics on positive as well as negative exceptions serves to cultivate excellence in an organisation. Determining what each person in the line contributed to an exceptional result, and the means, ability and accountability they received which enabled them to do so, can ensure a perpetuation of the positive outcome into the future and/or a replication of excellence in other areas.

3. Use with a specific purpose in mind

The Leadership Diagnostics tool is most useful when it is focused on a specific performance issue. An organisation may, for example, elect to do diagnostics on all safety incidents in order to improve its safety performance. Conversely, doing diagnostics on all customer complaints and compliments can help address product quality. Organisations which have been most successful in their use of Leadership Diagnostics have focused them on burning performance issues in their business.

4. Apply the tool to a specific incident or result

The more specific the incident or the result which is chosen for analysis the better. This is because finding solutions to the specific exception per se is actually not the reason for the diagnostic. The specific exception is simply a vehicle for getting to grips with the key command issues which are evidenced by the exception. As more and more specific exceptions are diagnosed the core leadership issues in the organisation become increasingly apparent and lay the foundation for a strategy to raise the calibre of leaders across the business.

5. Diagnose by ‘watching the game’

A diagnostic is only as useful as the quality of information on which it is based. Quality information can only be garnered by spending time in the field gathering the facts, through direct observation and asking questions of all involved. Sometimes the most penetrating insights come from someone who is unfamiliar with the situation but who knows the means, ability and accountability questions to ask.

6. Ask ‘why?’ all the way up the line

The Leadership Diagnostic needs to be done all the way up the line, preferably to the most senior level in the organisation. This is because what senior managers do or don’t do in a situation is often the bull’s eye – the 20% of causes which account for 80% of results. Remedial actions taken by those higher up in the hierarchy, in other words, tend to have a far bigger impact than those taken at lower levels in the organisation.

7. Remedial action needs to be owned and driven by the line

Concerted and systematic action needs to follow on from the diagnostic and needs to be owned and driven by the line. Unless this is the case, Leadership Diagnostics stand the risk of becoming an academic exercise rather than a means to significantly strengthen an organisation’s line of command.

8. Be wary of excuses – invalid means and ability claims

Not all means and ability issues are valid. Often people profess means and ability issues to avoid being held accountable for their carelessness or deliberate malevolence. When they are in fact ‘excuses’ they should be treated accordingly.

9. The improvement timeframe will be shorter when means and accountability, rather than ability, are at issue

Improvements in contribution can be realised most quickly when the issues impeding contribution are means or accountability issues. Ability issues, by definition, take longer to address.

10. Do both reactive and proactive diagnostics

A reactive diagnostic is, by definition, an analysis of the past. Its value lies in the learning afforded by the exception which has already taken place. A proactive diagnostic on the other hand can be used to improve on performance in the future. With a proactive diagnosis a stretch goal is set; afterwards the diagnostic determines what needs to be given by whom all the way up the line to ensure that the desired outcome is achieved. Organisations which have made the doing of Leadership Diagnostics mandatory and who have tasked managers at all levels to report back on their diagnoses and remedial actions on a regular basis have reaped the biggest dividends from deploying this critical leadership practice.

Initially doing Leadership Diagnostics seems like hard work. The benefits which accrue in terms of significant improvements in the calibre of leadership in a business are, however, more than worth it.

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Legitimate Leadership UK Launched

Legitimate Leadership was formally launched in the United Kingdom on 6 March 2020 – a big milestone for the organisation.

The launch took the form of a half-day intro event in London hosted by the company’s directors, Wendy Lambourne and Ian Munro. Representatives of every one of Legitimate Leadership’s current UK-based clients responded positively to the invitation to attend, and actually attended the launch. They were generous in sharing their experience of implementing the framework in their organizations, said Lambourne.

The event also drew people who wanted to learn more about this unique approach to leadership and organizational excellence and how implementation of the principles and practices impacts positively on Legitimacy, Trust, Contribution and Accountability.

Given the level of interest shown at the Legitimate Leadership UK launch, a one day executive overview will be held in London on 11 June.


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March 2020 – Question of the Month

By Ian Munro, director, Legitimate Leadership.

Question of the Month: Getting started with a transformation toward legitimate leadership is a protracted process which includes the introductory workshop, application modules, etc … correct?

Answer: In reality, relatively few people immediately and enthusiastically translate the theory into action. But this does not have to be the case. “Application” is not just for the most forward-thinking and courageous leaders. It simply requires commitment, perseverance, and the acceptance that trial-and-error is a legitimate (and often necessary) part of our growth.

A Legitimate Leadership intervention typically starts with a 2-day introductory programme and follows with a series of Application Modules aimed at particular problems. But leaders don’t have to wait for an Application Module before they start to change their own intent and behaviour. It all starts with intent – a change in heart.

From there it simply requires taking what now sits in your head and putting it into your hands: changing your behaviour so that people experience you differently.

It won’t (and can’t) happen overnight. People will be sceptical, especially if your new behaviour is radically different from what they’re used to, but they’ll get used to the new you. They will often even help you get there.

The email below, written to me by someone who had done the introductory workshop, but before any Application Module, is instructive.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the course. I learnt so much about myself and my leadership style. During the workshop, a big eye-opener for me was that I need to take a step back and lead the managers reporting to me. I am a very hands-on person, so I am always on the floor and staff tend to talk to me about challenges they may have. What I was doing before, is I would jump in and try to solve their challenges. This potentially would have and was becoming a big problem, as more and more staff were coming to me directly and not to their managers.

“This is actually a behavior I have had for many years as a manager. I would always wonder why I spent so much time solving everyone else’s issues and never getting to the work I should be doing. Silly for me to never realize that what I was doing was disempowering the other managers …

“I have started one-on-one meetings with the managers reporting directly to me. During these sessions we are discussing what exactly I expect from them and what they expect from me. This is proving to be a good idea, as what I assumed – that they knew I wanted from them – they didn’t. Once I have laid a solid foundation with them, they in turn need to do the same with their direct reports, etc … We are a new management team, and the timing of the survey and course are perfect. I have no doubt that we are going to gain a lot from it.”

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February 2020 – Question of the Month

By Stuart Foulds, associate, Legitimate Leadership.

Question of the Month: As a leader, I want to demonstrate that I can suspend my interests in favour of my team’s. But everything I can think of helping them with is clearly in my interests as well as theirs. Our interests do not appear ever to be in conflict. To suspend my agenda for theirs requires somewhat separate agendas … right? I feel like we’re working towards common goals and our agendas are aligned, so what have I missed? Their growth opportunities, for example, might not directly help me but they benefit me in the long run as they grow in competence. My time spent with them never feels wasted.

Answer: Don’t feel alone! As leaders embark on their legitimate leadership journey, many initially wrestle with this apparent quandary. But it’s not truly a quandary. The answer goes straight to your INTENT.

Firstly, we have to acknowledge that in the real world we all generally act to some extent with mixed motives.

In any well-run team there will be broad positive alignment of everyone’s agendas. Through your giving, your team will improve and you may well look good as a result. Clearly, having a happier, better-skilled and better-capacitated team is also going to benefit you as the leader. And that’s fine – we are not asking leaders to go out of their way to act against their own best interests!

What we are asking leaders to do is be thoughtful about what their PRIMARY intent is – am I doing this mainly because I genuinely want to help the team, or am I doing this mainly because I want to get something in return? If you can honestly answer the former, then be confident that you’re doing the right thing.

Think about what each member of your team needs from you to grow and develop. You pass the Intent Test every day when you give your time and attention to helping with a direct report’s “inconvenient agenda”, when your own life might be simpler and easier if you focused on something else.

If as a result your own life as a leader also gets better, there’s no need to feel guilty – just enjoy the feeling of a genuine win-win!

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Managers Do Things, Leaders Do People

By Wendy Lambourne , director, Legitimate Leadership.

Let us be quite clear that both good management and good leadership are required for sustainable organisational performance. Management, however, is a process and set of practices which are best applied to things (like money, facilities, systems, inventory, etc). Leadership on the other hand is a process and set of practices pertinent to people.

The problem arises when management is applied to people. It literally reduces people to the status of things.

More specifically, this problem presents itself in organisations where those who have people reporting to them, for whom they are responsible, are managers, not leaders.

Managers are different from leaders in five vital respects.

  1. MANAGERS ARE HERE TO ‘TAKE’, LEADERS ARE HERE TO ‘GIVE. Managers and leaders have a fundamentally different view of what they are here to DO and for what PURPOSE. Managers think that their job is to get results out of people. Leaders know that their prime purpose is to care for and cultivate excellence in their people. Managers in their essence are here to “take” while leaders are here to “give” to their people.
  2. MANAGERS GET THE WORK DONE THROUGH PEOPLE, LEADERS GET THE PEOPLE DONE THROUGH THE WORK. This difference in intent or motive evidences itself in what managers perceive to be means and ends. A manager’s end or objective is to get the job done or results achieved. By definition people are the means to that end. Managers, in other words, commoditise people. While they are “our greatest assets” in good times, they are “an unfortunate cost” in adverse conditions – which, like any costs, need to be reduced. People are human resources to be used, or even used up, in order to achieve the results. Leaders make an essential shift in what they see as means and ends. They view the tasks/results as a means to cultivate exceptional people. Managers get the work done through the people; leaders get the people done through the work.
  3. MANAGERS TOLERATE MEDIOCRITY, LEADERS INSIST ON EXCELLENCE.  Managers don’t care if their people are mediocre or excellent as long as they produce the results. On the contrary, leaders are relentless in the pursuit of excellence in their people as an end in itself. Leaders do whatever is required for their people to be the best that they can be, whether they like it or not. This is because they know that sustainable organisational excellence is not possible with lacklustre people.
  4. MANAGERS SEEK TO CHANGE THEIR PEOPLE, LEADERS STRIVE TO CHANGE THEMSELVES. Managers want their people to change because they believe that the change in their people’s performance, ownership and willingness, will deliver a better result. Leaders rather seek to change themselves. Instead of doing things to their people to motivate them they seek to become the kind of person who their people are motivated by. They make themselves the project because they are convinced that the cause and effect chain works as follows: only when leaders change do their people change, which then leads to a different result.
  5. MANAGERS HAVE PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS, LEADERS FORGE PERSONAL CONNECTIONS WITH THOSE IN THEIR CHARGE.  Lastly, managers and leaders differ in the nature of the relationships they have with their people. Good managers at least have “professional” relationships with their people such that there are reasonable levels of respect and trust between the parties. Leaders have something more. They have “personal” relationships with their people. They bond with them at a deeper level and, as a result of this, their people are prepared to walk through fire for them. What generates the personal bond is that leaders sincerely care about their people as human beings, not human resources. They deliberately and consciously choose to put their people’s interests before their own. Consequently they grow in stature in their people’s eyes and then, and only then, are their people prepared to sacrifice for them.

The transformation of managers into leaders is not easy. It amounts to a fundamental change, not in the head but in the heart. Nothing less is what is required, however, if organisations are to become places where (in Simon Sinek’s words) “people wake up inspired, feel safe at work, and return home fulfilled at the end of the day”.

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The Appropriate Response To Exceptions In A Business

By Wendy Lambourne , director, Legitimate Leadership.

An exception is anything outside the norm – something which is unusual, untypical, not what we expect or have become used to.

We should learn from both positive and negative exceptions and apply the learnings to ensure a more positive future result. More specifically, we should unpack the command or leadership actions which sit behind all exceptions. In doing so we enable those in leadership roles to gain clarity regarding what they should be doing to better enable each of their direct reports.

Exceptions, in other words, should be seen as golden opportunities to learn about and enhance the quality of leadership in an enterprise. They should be used to raise the calibre of leadership at every level in the line of command.

An exception can pertain to either a specific incident or to a result. Both incidents which are negative (a disabling injury, a customer complaint, a protracted breakdown); and those which are positive (a project delivered significantly below budget, an exceptional product launch, a shutdown completed in record time) constitute exceptions. Similarly, an abnormal result, as reflected as a score on a scoreboard (profit, sales revenue, picking error rate, customer service index), can be defined as an exception when it is unusually better or worse than the norm.


Very often the response to a positive exception is no response. The positive outcome is taken for granted and we move on to the next challenge. More appropriately we do pause long enough to at least celebrate the ‘win’; we have a party. Praise and reward is given, though not necessarily to the right people but to those who have made the biggest contribution to the positive result. Then we move on.

What rarely happens is that we take the time to learn from the positive event. We take time to understand who contributed what to the positive outcome and then apply that learning to ensure the positive result is maintained or repeated going forward.


When a serious negative event occurs, our immediate response is to take crisis action to ameliorate or reduce the negative effect. This is appropriate: when the boat springs a leak, we should scurry to find a way to ‘plug’ the hole in the boat. Typically, an investigation is launched which may or may not get to the root cause. Sometimes the ‘culprits’ are punished; people are held accountable though not necessarily appropriately. More likely as a corrective action than holding people accountable is to rather impose another control, a checklist or an additional checker, to ensure that this never happens again.

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January 2020 – Question of the Month

By Wendy Lambourne , director, Legitimate Leadership.

Question of the Month:To grow someone at work, does a leader need to promote her, move her to another job or give her new responsibilities?

Answer: Clearly there are opportunities for a person to grow from all three of these. But there is no need to either move a person or reconfigure her role in order for her to grow. Leaders enable their people to grow on a continuous basis in their current jobs through helping them when they get stuck; helping them to view their jobs differently (the means and ends switch); helping them to focus on and build their abilities (by the leader watching the game and giving feedback); and by setting them tasks which keep them in their learning zone.


  1. They help their people, when they get stuck, to move forward.

What this means is not necessarily that the leader helps a direct report whenever he is struggling with a problem. On the contrary, letting a person grapple with an issue can often result in greater learning than the leader jumping in to assist him. What this actually means is intervening when a direct report has got himself into some kind of victim state. When the person has ceased to take accountability in the situation, that he is in, is focusing on what he is “getting” which he does not want/ not “getting” what he does want, and believes that someone other than himself or the environment in which he operates is to blame.

Whenever a person is in a victim state, the will to learn and grow is not engaged. The role of the leader here is to help his subordinate to get out of this debilitating frame of mind, to focus his attention forward and regain his sense of being in charge of the situation that she is in.

There is a very simple but powerful process which leaders can use to do this called the Gripe to Goal process, which is outlined in detail in the book Legitimate Leadership (2012) – page 216-231. The skilful use of this process makes masters out of erstwhile victims. It does so now.

  1. They help their people to view their jobs differently – the means and ends switch.

The conventional view of a job is that it comprises a number of tasks which are done by a person in order to achieve some defined outcome. The purpose of doing any task, in other words, is to achieve a result.

Legitimate leaders help their people to change, not the content of the jobs, but how they view their jobs. They help them to make a means and ends switch; from viewing themselves as the means to do a task to seeing the task as the means to grow them.

Specifically, they assist their people to see the opportunity which exists whenever a task is done to strengthen a particular ability; to develop or enhance a particular competency that they would like to work on.

All tasks have within them the possibility for ongoing learning and growth but only if the person doing the task uses the task as such. Every time I run a Legitimate Leadership Introductory workshop (which I have done at least 1,000 times) I can either view it as something I am doing to deliver on a client commitment or as yet another wonderful opportunity to hone my facilitating ability (I don’t profess this too often – since a client said “so you mean that you should be paying us, not the other way round?”)

Similarly, every time a debt collector picks up the phone, she can, if she chooses to do so, use the call to enhance her influencing ability. Even a subordinate from hell can be a blessing if he is perceived as such by his manager, who views each difficult conversation that he has with him as a means to develop what is a key leadership competency – that of confronting or dealing with conflict.

In helping their people to see their jobs in this way, leaders effect a change in their relationship with their direct reports from a traditional reporting to a coaching relationship.

In a reporting relationship, the person is there to produce a result, not enhance his ability. The routine interactions between manager and direct report are therefore typically centred on progress against agreed tasks.

In a coaching relationship, conversations between the parties include content which is not in a conventional reporting relationship. Part of what is discussed is the person’s progress against a specific competency and the aspects of his job which provide the greatest opportunity to further strengthen the person in terms of his ability.

  1. They help their people to focus on and build their abilities by watching the game and giving feedback.

For most people, if they receive feedback at all, it is infrequent, formal and in the context of an annual or biannual performance appraisal. The feedback moreover is generally not very helpful. It is not consistent with the basic rules of good feedback: specific, behavioural, owned by the giver, balanced and soon. Most importantly, it does not provide the person with clarity in terms of exactly how to do better going forward.

This is despite the fact that feedback from a person who is both trusted and respected is one of the most powerful development tools available to managers in any organisational context.

Legitimate leaders obviously take the opportunity to give their direct reports feedback in their regular one-on-ones with them throughout the year. In addition to this, they help their people to focus on and build their ability by, as frequently as possible, making time to “watch the game” and give feedback on what they have observed.

Like a good sports coach, they help each of their direct reports to focus on and work to improve only one aspect of themselves at a time.

The purpose of watching the game is to identify what specifically the person needs to learn which will further improve his ability in terms of a particular competency.

The reason why the leader needs to watch the game is because competencies – like listening, influencing, empowering – are still too global. In terms of listening, for example, does the person need to learn not to interrupt? To be fully present? To be more sensitive and empathetic to the feelings behind the facts?

Only by seeing the person in action, observing and asking questions, can the leader garner the kind of information that can then be used to convince the person of exactly what he needs to work on next to further enhance his ability.

When leaders watch the game and give feedback well they will know that this is the case simply because the person whose game they have been watching will be asking them to come again soon.

  1. They help their people to grow by setting them tasks which keep them in their learning zone.

Honing an ability, any ability, takes time. The 10,000 hours of practice required to achieve real mastery, posited by David Levitan, is generally seen to have validity.

An extraordinary investment of hours, however, is not on its own enough. People can work at something for most of their lives, being good at what they do, but not exceptional. It is necessary, but not sufficient to put in the hours.

In addition what is required for excellence in ability is what Anders Ericsson termed “deliberate practice”. By deliberate practice is meant concerted, repeated and focused engagement with the intention to improve.

Legitimate leaders do not simply implore their people to go out there and work on improving a particular competency. Rather, they determine specific task(s) which, when performed, will put pressure on each of their direct reports’ current learning needs.

The best task(s) are those which stretch the person beyond their current abilities. Task(s) which require the person to stretch just out of reach of their current level of ability to place the person in a learning zone. Task(s) which are in the person’s comfort zone, on the other hand, fail to extend abilities since by definition they can already be done easily.

Activities which are too hard are also not conducive to growth in ability because they engender panic rather than learning.

Conventional managers assign tasks on the basis of getting the best result now, not on the basis of enabling growth in their people. Legitimate leaders break the habit of keeping people doing the things that they are already good at. They put the task at risk to grow the person. They do so by pushing their people into their learning zone by giving them tasks which will grow and challenge them. They then support them so they do not fail.

By consistently helping their people in these four ways, they ensure that their people continue to grow and never stop growing.

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December 2019 – Question of the Month

By Wendy Lambourne , director, Legitimate Leadership.

Question of the Month:What is the appropriate action for a leader to take when an employee underperforms, or performs according to expectation, or performs well above expectation?

Answer: A hallmark of a leader is that he takes appropriate rather than expedient action. He sets the example for his people by doing the right thing and motivating them to behave appropriately.

When an employee has been a ‘Superstar’ and made an exceptional contribution, the “appropriate” leader responds by finding a way to reward the employee for this – because it is only just that such a person should receive demonstrably more than those who have not gone the extra mile.

When an employee has been a “Solid Citizen”, the appropriate leader acknowledges the contribution made and thanks the person for doing a good job.

When an employee has performed below standard, the appropriate leader investigates why this is the case and takes the appropriate action. If the employee lacks the means to do the job, the means is provided; if the employee lacks knowledge or ability, training is provided or the person is removed from the role or the work is redesigned. But if the underperformance is due to carelessness, the employee is censured and careful work is insisted upon; and if the underperformance has been due to deliberate malevolence, the employee is disciplined and sanctioned.

In all three cases (Superstar, Solid Citizen and Underperformer), the appropriate leader ensures that the means and ability are available for the employee to maintain and raise the bar on her performance.

By contrast, the inappropriate leader’s response to the Superstar is to do nothing, or to take advantage of her and assign more work. Alternatively, the leader may give everyone a reward.

Under inappropriate leadership, the Solid Citizen adopts an attitude of ‘it’s good enough’. He does not seek to up his game and over time his performance may deteriorate.

In the case of an Underperformer, the inappropriate leader does nothing, or does the work himself, or lowers the standard, or assigns tasks to someone else, or transfers the person or makes him redundant – or simply complains to colleagues about the Underperformer. The Underperformer continues to be sloppy, lazy or even deliberately malevolent, with a demeanour of ‘how little can I do without being fired?’

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Instead Of Doing Admin, Frontline Managers Should Coach Their Employees And Constantly Improve Quality

By Aaron De Smet, Monica McGurk, and Marc Vinson, principals of consulting company McKinsey in the USA, writing in McKinsey Quarterly.

COMMENT BY WENDY LAMBOURNE, LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP, ON THIS ARTICLE: For frontline managers to perform their care and growth role requires in the first instance a mindshift from seeing their jobs as getting results out of people to enabling excellence in them. This will only happen however if those people are given the means and ability to perform the role and then held accountable for doing so. The Legitimate Leadership process, run over 12-18 months, has consistently delivered the kind of frontline managers described in this article – in branch banking, in motor retail, in manufacturing, in call centres, and in fashion retail. For these Legitimate Leadership case studies, see (Fuelling Peformance in Fashion RetailOpening A New Store A New WayCare & Growth Impacts Motor Retail ResultsReflections On Implementing Care & Growth).

OUR EXCERPTS FROM THIS ARTICLE: A retail manager responsible for more than $80 million in annual revenue, an airline manager who oversees a yearly passenger volume worth more than $160 million, a banking manager who deals with upward of seven million questions from customers a year. These aren’t executives at a corporate headquarters; they are the hidden—yet crucial— managers of frontline employees.

Found in almost any company, such managers are particularly important in industries with distributed networks of sites and employees. These industries—for instance, infrastructure, travel and logistics, manufacturing, health care, and retailing (including food service and retail banking)—make up more than half of the global economy. Their district or area managers, store managers, site or plant managers, and line supervisors direct as much as two-thirds of the workforce and are responsible for the part of the company that typically defines the customer experience. Yet most of the time, these managers operate as cogs in a system, with limited flexibility in decision making and little room for creativity. In a majority of the companies we’ve encountered, the frontline managers’ role is merely to oversee a limited number of direct reports, often in a “span breaking” capacity, relaying information from executives to workers.

Such managers keep an eye on things, enforce plans and policies, report operational results, and quickly escalate issues or problems. In other words, a frontline manager is meant to communicate decisions, not to make them; to ensure compliance with policies, not to use judgment or discretion (and certainly not to develop policies); and to oversee the implementation of improvements, not to contribute ideas or even implement improvements (workers do that). This system makes companies less productive, less agile, and less profitable, our experience shows.

Change is possible, however. At companies that have successfully empowered their frontline managers, the resulting flexibility and productivity generate strong financial returns.

One convenience store retailer, for example, reduced hours worked by 19 to 25 percent while increasing sales by almost 10 percent. It achieved this result by halving the time store managers spent on administration; restructuring their work (and that of their employees) to focus on the areas most relevant to customers, such as the cleanliness of stores and upselling efforts at the cash register; and creating easy-to-understand performance metrics that managers now had enough time to coach employees on daily.

The key is a shift to frontline managers who have the time—and the ability—to address the unique circumstances of their specific stores, plants, or mines; to foresee trouble and stem it before it begins; and to encourage workers to seek out opportunities for self improvement. In difficult economic times, making employees more productive is even more crucial than it is ordinarily.


To unlock a team’s abilities, a manager at any level must spend a significant amount of time on two activities: helping the team understand the company’s direction and its implications for team members and coaching for performance. Little of either occurs on the front line today.

Across industries, frontline managers in the USA spend 30 to 60 percent of their time on administrative work and meetings, and 10 to 50 percent on nonmanagerial tasks (traveling, participating in training, taking breaks, conducting special projects, or undertaking direct customer service or sales themselves). They spend only 10 to 40 percent actually managing frontline employees by, for example, coaching them directly. Even then, managers often aren’t truly coaching the front line. Our survey of retail district managers, for example, showed that much of the time they spend on frontline employees actually involved auditing for compliance with standards or solving immediate problems. At some companies we surveyed, district managers devote just 4 to 10 percent of their time—as little as 10 minutes a day—to coaching teams. To put the point another way, a district manager in retailing may spend as little as one hour a month developing people in the more junior but critical role of store manager.

In our experience, neither companies nor their frontline managers typically expect more. One area manager at a specialty retailer with thousands of outlets said, “Coaching? A good store manager should just know what to do—that’s what we hire them for.” A store manager in a global convenience retailer told us, “There are just good stores and bad stores—there’s very little we can do to change that.” Another store manager, in a North American electronics retailer, said, “They told me, ‘We don’t pay you to think; we pay you to execute.’”

These shortcomings are rooted in the early days of the industrial revolution, when manufacturing work was broken down into highly specialized, repetitive, and easily observed tasks. No one worker created a whole shoe, for example; each hammered his nail in the same spot and the same way every time, maximizing effectiveness and efficiency.

Employees didn’t necessarily know anything about the overall job in which they participated, so supervisors (usually people good at the work itself) were employed to enforce detailed standards and policies—essentially, serving as span breakers between workers and policy makers. Many manufacturing companies still use this approach, because it can deliver high-quality results on the front line, at least in the short term. In many service industries, the same approach has taken hold in order to provide all customers in all locations with a consistent experience.

Although attention to execution is important, an exclusive focus on it can have insidious long-term effects. Such a preoccupation leaves no time for efforts to deal with new demands (say, higher production or quality), let alone for looking at the big picture. The result is a working environment with little flexibility, little encouragement to make improvements, and an increased risk of low morale among both workers and their managers—all at high cost to companies.

The effects of poor frontline management may be particularly damaging at service companies, where researchers have consistently detected a causal relationship between the attitudes and behavior of customer-facing employees, on the one hand, and the customers’ perceptions of service quality, on the other.

In service industries, research has found that three factors drive performance: the work climate; the ways teams act together and things are done; and the engagement, commitment, and satisfaction of employees. Leadership— in particular, the quality of supervision and the nature of the relationships between supervisors and their teams—is crucial to performance in each of these areas.

Clearly, the typical work patterns and attitudes of frontline managers are not conducive to good results. At a North American medical-products distributor, for example, one supervisor reflected that the company “is like California—forest fires breaking out everywhere and no plan to stop them. A lot of crisis-to-crisis situations with no plan. We’ve been in this mode for so long, we don’t know how to stop and plan, although that’s what we desperately need to do. I wish I knew how to intervene.”

Because frontline managers were so busy jumping in to solve problems, they had no time to step back and look at longer-term performance trends or to identify—and try to head off—emerging performance issues. It’s therefore no wonder that the company’s performance had begun to decline: inventories were increasing and errors in shipments became more frequent. Companies can also get into frontline trouble if they fail to maintain well-managed operations


At best-practice companies, frontline managers allocate 60 to 70 percent of their time to the floor, much of it in high-quality individual coaching. Such companies also empower their managers to make decisions and act on opportunities. The bottom-line benefit is significant, but to obtain it companies must fundamentally redefine what they expect from frontline managers and redesign the work that those managers and their subordinates do. The examples below explain how two companies in different circumstances and industries made such changes.


Sometimes a corporate crisis drives frontline changes. A global equipment manufacturer, for example, was facing backlogs, capacity constraints, and quality and profitability issues in its core vehicle assembly business. The company’s senior leaders concluded that they would have to change operations at five plants by running two shifts rather than three while also raising production levels and quality. “Substantial” results would be needed in no more than seven weeks. Frontline managers were to have a critical role in the changeover—indeed, it couldn’t succeed unless they adopted a new way of working. To communicate the importance of the changes being introduced, senior leaders, among other things, ordered vice presidents to spend full days in vehicle assembly stations and sent the company’s director of operations to participate in daily shift start-up meetings at each plant.3 Meanwhile, the jobs of frontline managers changed. They were to spend more time in active roles: critical processes and workflows were redesigned according to lean principles, and the managers played the principal part in implementing these changes. Administrative activities, such as writing reports to plant managers and gathering data to prepare for site visits from regional managers, were eliminated. Innovations spouted— boards posted on factory floors, for example, were continuously updated with performance information, such as hour-by-hour tracking of lost time, as well as long-term problems and the solutions found for them. End-of-shift reports let each shift know exactly what the previous one had accomplished. Weekly reports informed workers about the five most important defects to correct and the five most important actions needed to improve performance. A typical manager’s span of control fell to 12 to 15, from 20 to 30. Such changes freed managers to spend more time providing on-the-floor coaching and helping teams solve immediate problems. Managers received on-the-job training in lean technical skills as well as in coaching, team building, and problem solving. They also moved their desks from offices to the shop floor and spent at least five hours a day there, literally putting themselves in the middle of the transformation. As a result, managers and workers identified and implemented other improvements—for example, making parts more available, with fewer defects, and routing materials more efficiently—so that lost production and the need for rework fell. Overall, though the transformation took ten weeks rather than seven, the initial targets were exceeded. Across the five plants, the number of completed vehicles rose by 40 percent a month—despite the elimination of a shift—and quality by 80 percent. Worker hours fell by 40 percent.


Changing the mind-sets and capabilities of individual frontline managers can be the hardest part. In our experience, many of them see limits to how much they can accomplish; some also recognize the need to restructure their roles but nonetheless fear change. At times, before the job of coaching can begin, companies must address more insidious mindsets— such as a belief that employees can’t learn, their negative attitudes toward customers, or a lack of confidence that frontline managers can influence performance. The first step is to help frontline managers understand the need for change and how it could make things better. At the convenience store retailer mentioned earlier, for example, an analysis revealed that store managers spent, on average, 61 percent of their time on administration and that they struggled with poorly defined processes for interacting with customers. In addition, these managers felt that they had no control over key performance drivers (such as sales in important product categories), lacked simple tools to monitor daily performance, and had inadequate leadership and coaching skills. They were also tired of “flavor of the month” corporate-improvement initiatives that dictated more work without addressing the fundamental causes of problems. To give store managers a sense of what could be, this company showed some groups of managers a radically different model store. There, work processes such as stocking took much less time than it did in the company’s ordinary stores, because similar products were grouped together, and high-volume stock was stored in a common and much more accessible location. Cleaning was easier because the layout had been improved, employees had the equipment and supplies to clean more frequently and quickly, and an if-it’s simple- clean-it-now policy had been introduced. Such steps created a more attractive store environment, simplified the work of employees, freed them to interact with customers, and reduced the amount of time managers had to spend dealing with problems in these areas. Managers also gained time in other ways: for example, they no longer had to complete long weekly sales reports, respond to corporate directives that arrived at unexpected times, and accommodate too-frequent visits by district or regional sales managers.


Even when companies get frontline management right, it can be easy for them to lose sight of their gains. Consider, for example, the experience of a chemical manufacturer where shift supervisors didn’t need to spend time on simple, immediate problems, because workers could solve those themselves. Instead, these managers focused on more complex, longer term improvements: eliminating defects, understanding the fundamental causes of operational problems, and coaching and mentoring operators and mechanics. From the outside, the shift supervisors didn’t seem to be contributing much, so during a cost reduction effort, the company implemented self-managed teams. Although the reduced costs initially seemed beneficial, over time discipline slipped, new hires were chosen and trained less rigorously, long-term issues were no longer addressed systematically, and the self-managed teams became less reliable. In other words, they could manage the work day by day but not in the long term. As a result, about five years after the role of shift supervisor was eliminated, the company’s capabilities began a steep slide: the structural integrity and safety of plants fell, costs went up dramatically, and reliability plummeted. It took the company another five years to dig itself out of the hole. Some of its businesses shut down completely, in part as a result of global economic conditions, but also because the high cost of restoring its efficiency and reliability made it less competitive.


Reporting captured fewer but more essential indicators, such as the volume of sales in key product categories. All visits from district or regional managers were scheduled in advance and followed a predetermined and performance-focused agenda. As a result, the time store managers spent on administration fell by nearly half, so they could devote 60 to 70 percent of their days to activities such as coaching workers and interacting with customers. These managers spent more time on the sales floor with individual employees and regularly discussed store strategies and performance metrics with them. The discussions took advantage of a new performance scorecard with just a few key metrics, such as the number of customers greeted during peak hours, success rates on “suggestive selling” at checkout, and immediate follow-up with customers to gauge their satisfaction. Because the stores stayed open 24 hours a day, managers weren’t always present. They therefore engaged all employees in regular problem-solving sessions to create a better selling and service environment in the stores—for example, by ensuring that more employees would be available at critical times of the week. Furthermore, managers could now adapt the company’s general operating model by deciding how many (and which) employees would be present in stores at any given time. This vision of a well-run store, contrasting starkly with the stores of the managers who visited it, overcame their fears. Once frontline managers have accepted the need for change, however, they must learn the new ways of working required by the demands of their redefined roles. At the convenience store retailer, training sessions and trial-and error fieldwork helped the managers develop the needed capabilities quickly. Some of these skills were technical, focused on managing more effective processes and revised daily routines, as well as keeping track of the simplified store performance scorecards. Other forms of training enhanced the managers’ interpersonal skills, such as how to engage and empower subordinates; to have regular, constructive conversations about performance; and how to provide feedback and coaching. Managers were also made aware of the negative mind-sets (such as, “I am just another associate when I go on the store floor,” and “My job is to make sure that tasks get done”) that made it harder to develop the right skills and capabilities. They learned how to counter these mind-sets and to adopt more positive ones (for instance, “I regularly provide my employees with constructive feedback and tips,” and “My job is to ensure that tasks are complete and that customers are served as well”), which promote more appropriate behavior and better performance. When the company rolled out the program broadly, the results were impressive: productivity rose by 51 percent in one region and by 65 percent in another.5 Companies that succeed in redefining the job of the frontline manager can improve their performance remarkably. Successful approaches can be applied across many industries. A mining company that implemented such a program enjoyed a 10 percent increase in tonnage per frontline employee. A bank branch found that cross-selling went up by 24 percent within a year. Total sales at a department store rose 2 percent in one six-month period. The key is to help frontline managers become true leaders, with the time, the skills, and the desire to help workers understand the company’s direction and its implications for themselves, as well as to coach them individually. Such mangers should have enough time to think ahead, to uncover and solve long-term problems, and to plan for potential new demands. A nursing supervisor at a European hospital that empowered its nurses offered perhaps the clearest description of the way frontline leaders ought to think—a description that couldn’t be more different from the role of traditional frontline managers: “I am a valued member of this team, who has responsibility to make sure my ward nurses have the right coaching to improve patient service while contributing to the overall functioning of our ward—for the first time, I feel as important as a doctor or an administrator in the success of this institution.” That kind of frontline leader can consistently help employees to enhance their impact on an organization’s work

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Legitimate Leadership Should Be Nurtured, Not Managed Or Controlled

By Wendy Lambourne , director, Legitimate Leadership.

Organisations do not transform overnight. This is because people are still people irrespective of technology. Humans, because they are human, require time to adapt and respond to change.

Legitimate Leadership, or being here to care for and grow others, actually begins in an organisation when one or more individuals who have been exposed to the Legitimate Leadership Model go away and do something with it. The positive results they accrue from doing so not only personally encourage them to continue, but provide an example(s) for others to follow.

The germination of the 16 Legitimate Leadership or care and growth practices, in other words, happen slowly and often takes time to be noticed. At some point however the principles and practices take root and gather momentum. Eventually a point is reached when some sort of critical mass has been achieved. “Care and growth” is then no longer the exception but the norm.

Cultivating an organisation which embodies the principles and spirit of Legitimate Leadership therefore requires patience and perseverance by all involved.

It is in recognition of this that the Legitimate Leadership process for a group of 15-20 leaders is typically 12-18 months in duration.

The process begins with a two-day workshop which seeks to gain leaders’ understanding of and commitment to the Legitimate Leadership principles and beliefs. Thereafter leaders gain insight, from feedback on their leadership profiles, as to how aligned they are currently perceived to be to the Legitimate Leadership criteria. The feedback they receive acts as a stimulus to action and gives focus to the changes they need to make in their leadership behaviour and practice.

The final step in the process is a period of deliberate practice and reflection through attendance at a series of Application Modules and Review Sessions interspersed by application in the workplace.

Over several months leaders gain increasing competence and confidence in the use of the tools they have been given and practices they have been taught. The Legitimate Leadership way of leading gains traction and becomes, eventually, simply the way leaders are and behave in the organisation.

Those participating in the process need to bear in mind the four following points:

  1. Every step of the process, from the initial two-day workshop through to the Repeat Profiles, is necessary and adds value. At the same time, in enabling the shift from being here to get results out of people to caring for and growing exceptional people, more change happens in the one-on-one feedback on profiles and the application review sessions than in the “training” components of the process, be it the two-day Intro or Application Module workshops. People really grow and change from feedback and deliberate practice – not input, no matter how interesting and convincing that input is.
  2. The purpose of the Application Module workshops is to provide leaders with a deeper understanding of the specific aspect of the framework that the module addresses as well as the means (tools) and ability (know-how and know-why) to act on that understanding. The “end” of the module is that leaders are enabled to DO this aspect of Legitimate Leadership better than they would have without the module. Each person will, and should, take something different from the workshop. Each person will, and should, elect to use the tools that “work” for them or adapt the tools so that they do so.
  3. The care and growth process is organic. It happens incrementally and it happens one leader at a time. Rather than having a Legitimate Leadership strategy and plan with measures and milestones to manage against, leaders need to trust the process and stop trying to manage the outcome. Only once they do so will they not only enjoy the journey but find that they have transformed as leaders in the process.
  4. Some leaders learn quicker than others and some apply the principles better than others. That is fine. The goal is not to reach perfection, it is to continue to learn and get just a little better than before.
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Event: Reinventing Performance Management Workshop

By Teigue Payne, Legitimate Leadership.

Conventional performance management systems received negative reviews at a recent Legitimate Leadership client-consultant workshop in Johannesburg entitled Reinventing Performance Management. Comment on traditional systems was that they were often seen as a form of control and punishment – and occasionally reward.

One delegate described them as “the single most disengaging factor that employers use”.

Also, often conventional systems were “played” to get the required good scores.

Yet in the choice between software systems and more labour-intensive performance management approaches, software systems are generally preferred. This is probably because of two factors. Firstly, software is frequently sold as a silver bullet (but experience shows that this is unrealistic – that any success can only come from putting new behaviours in place). Secondly, legitimate leadership of any kind generally involves hard work and the courage to hold people accountable – and the turkey seldom votes for Christmas.

To remedy the negatives of conventional performance management systems, there was agreement among many delegates that the focus needed to shift to “forward-looking contribution”. Most of all, any system which would result in all employees trusting and contributing to it, should be sought.

The Legitimate Leadership Model is not about systems, said Wendy Lambourne, director of Legitimate Leadership. It is rather about cultivating relationships of trust. So no particular system should stop the application of the Legitimate Leadership Model in an organisation. Nonetheless, a performance management system which is aligned to Legitimate Leadership principles obviously is likely to work better.

A case study of one company, Singular Systems, which used the Legitimate Leadership Model in reinventing its performance management system, was described at the workshop – see Singular Systems: Reinventing Its Performance Management System. Following the reinvention, Singular Systems Cape Town achieved increased revenue growth year-on-year due, among other things, to focus on growing staff and driving individual contribution, said Dave Elliott, and executive of Singular Systems.

Said Lambourne: “Every organization is different and you absolutely cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach. Legitimate Leadership has no silver bullet for all performance management systems. It accepts that they will differ from company to company, in different geographies and different environments.”

Almost every company has a performance management system of some kind – often very informal.

Whatever pre-existing system there is, it can be tweaked and changed to align with the Legitimate Leadership Model. Or the system can be scrapped and one can start again.

Ian Munro, director of Legitimate Leadership, said the willingness to give or contribute unconditionally is enabled by the three Ps: purpose, passion and person.

One of the deepest differences between Legitimate Leadership and more conventional leadership approaches is that it calls for the focus on the financial scoreboard (results) to be lessened in favour of focus on the contributions of the people in the organisation. Put differently, Legitimate Leadership is asking for a shift from the results themselves to the people in the organisation who actually cause the results in the first place.

Said Munro: “The scoreboard doesn’t tell you what the contribution is – you can only know what it is by watching the game.”

“Sticks and carrots are not the solution because in essence both are about what can be got from people. In contrast, Legitimate Leadership is about empowering people – what we can give to people and how enabling people makes them stronger.

“The defects of traditional performance management systems are usually addressed through one or more of the following: 1) increasing transparency, 2) decreasing subjectivity, 3) moving from discrete reviews to continuous performance management, and 4) performance standardisation (bell curves). Most performance management systems that we have come across aim to deliver on at least a couple, or occasionally all, of these.

“The problem with all four is that none of them deals with the two core problems plaguing performance management in most organisations: mistrust and backwards-focus. None deals explicitly with mistrust (getting someone to believe you because you made everything transparent is not the same as getting them to trust you). Only continuous performance management (potentially) deals with the backwards-focus problem.

“In designing a performance management system, it is much more effective to focus on developing trusting relationships, than developing the perfect system. None of the trends – improving transparency, decreasing subjectivity, holding a continuous focus, and standardising across the business – are bad ideas in themselves. In fact, we think they are good ideas. We’re simply saying that without a commensurate improvement in trust, and a willingness to look forwards rather than backwards, they simply won’t deliver the improvement that organisations desire. The response to calling on trust will depend on the level of social capital in the relationship.

“Unless you have a trust-based relationship it doesn’t matter what your system is, it will always disempower people. Essentially the Legitimate Leadership Model, and the essence of trustworthiness, is ‘I trust you to the extent that I believe that you have my best interests at heart’.”

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November 2019 – Question of the Month

By Wendy Lambourne , director, Legitimate Leadership.

Question of the Month: What is the difference between management and leadership?

Answer: Legitimate Leadership has a very clear view of the distinction between management and leadership: management is what you apply to things; leadership pertains to people.

For organisational success and sustained results – organisational excellence – both management and leadership are required. So the distinction, for us, would be distilled by asking people, “what sounds right to you of the following two statements: you manage the inventory in the warehouse, or, you lead the inventory in the warehouse?” Obviously, you manage the inventory in the warehouse.

We are total advocates of the view that you should manage things like finances, systems, structures, facilities, etc. And we know that organisations which don’t manage tend not to succeed.

But our plea is: please don’t manage people, lead them. Because when you manage people, you reduced them to the status of things.

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October 2019 – Question of the Month

By Wendy Lambourne , director, Legitimate Leadership.

Question of the Month: What are factors to bear in mind with a new-technology transformation in an industrial, unionised worksite?

Answer: From Legitimate Leadership’s experience in industrial transformation projects, the following are indicators:

  • Good leadership is at least as important, and often more important, than good technology.
  • If you empower the people who actually run the plant rather than throwing technologists (engineering and R&D specialists) and extra people at the problem, you do much better.
  • When outsiders treat those who operate the plant as fools, they become fools.
  • In any transformation, you need to talk to employees at the start and throughout the process. You need to engage with organised labour through labour (union) structures, no matter how hard this is; and with the people directly (by means of mass meetings, shift meetings and one-on-one meetings between managers and direct reports).
  • You can’t plan a transformation in detail up front. Nevertheless no transformation is successful without a clear vision, an overall strategy and a roadmap. Within that you need to act on the opportunities for positive change as they arise in the process (for example, clinching a deal making temps permanent in exchange for flexible work arrangements).
  • You need to help managers make the shift to connecting to people as individuals who have individual circumstances and issues as opposed to seeing them as vessels of skills and knowledge, a human resource which you deploy to achieve some result.
  • You also need to teach managers how to empower their people (how to trust and entrust them, how to coach them and hold them appropriately accountable). You cannot assume that managers know how to do this.
  • Not everyone will survive a transformation – either due to restructuring or because they cannot fulfil the requirements of the role they need to perform. There is a need in any transformation for some tough conversations and letting go of some people.
  • The right structures (for instance, levels and shape of the organisation, and conditions of work like shift patterns and flexible working) can be significant enablers of the transformation.
  • Transformation is always a combination of enabling the people who are there and bringing in new people who will help with the change. Getting that mix right is important.
  • Leadership’s intent in the process is all-important. Why are we doing this? It has to be to secure a viable future for as many people as possible and to realise the best in people as an end in itself.
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Watching The Game To Enable Employee Contribution And Growth

By Wendy Lambourne , director, Legitimate Leadership.

There are different ways of “watching the game” or determining the means, ability and accountability issues, which if addressed, would enhance employee contribution and growth. Below are examples of how the concept of “watching the game” has been applied in various contexts, to realise significant improvements in individual and organisational performance.

Regional sales managers accompanied their sales executives in the field not to assist them to increase sales (although sales increased dramatically), but to determine what they needed in order to achieve excellence in the sales process.

One of the key scores on a warehouse scoreboard was picking error rate per picker. The warehouse manager shadowed both the best and the worst pickers in the warehouse. In a few days he was able to find out what, in terms of means, ability and motivation accounted for the difference in performance.

In an explosives factory, 80% of misfires in the field were due to powder gaps in the fuse, which produced by the operator during the process of spinning the fuse. A team made up of managers, technical experts and trainers spent 72 hours on site assessing operators against critical quality standards and asking them questions about their knowledge (including the “why”) of the standards. By watching the game, they found that 70% of the reasons for powder gaps were related to a lack of adequate means, 20% to ability (primarily a lack of “know-why”), and 10% to carelessness or willful non-adherence to standards. Remediation of the issues reduced customer complaints from 20 to 2 per month.

In a company which recovered stolen and hijacked vehicles, a key role was that of the installation technician who installed the tracking devices in the vehicles. Team leaders across the country asked the installation technicians reporting to them 3 questions:

  1. What frustrates you/makes it difficult for you to do your job?
  2. What motivates/is important to you?
  3. What would make you more motivated in your job?

Acting on the answers to the questions led to a significant improvement in motivation and customer satisfaction.
In a retail environment, area managers radically changed how they spent their time in the field by going on store manager rather than store visits – with the aim of “fixing” the store manager as opposed to the staff, the store, or the stores’ performances.

An MD accompanied his marketing and sales manager on an international trip to visit key suppliers. They returned not only with signed contracts but with clarity regarding what the marketing and sales manager needed in order to take relationships with critical individuals in the supplier organisations to higher levels.

Another form of watching the game is to do the job for a period of time and experience the realities of it. There is nothing like running a branch, taking calls in a call centre, or serving clients to understand what is really required to perform in the role.

Legitimate Leadership profiles are a mechanism for “watching the game” of those in leadership positions. They serve to diagnose a leader’s degree of alignment to the care and growth criteria. Better still is to spend time with someone in a leadership role sitting in on their one-on-one meetings and team sessions and watching them “watch the game”.

To watch the game in any context requires leaders to take their eyes off the results and to put their attention on their people. It requires them to focus on giving their people what they need to excel in their roles. Then, and only then, will organisational excellence be achieved.

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Coaching And The Legitimate Leadership Framework

By Stefaan van den Heever, associate, Legitimate Leadership.

I have been an executive coach since 2007. I have loved working with people in this way – it is a privilege to hold up a clear, mostly-untainted mirror for someone to come to terms with places/areas where there are gaps or incoherence in authenticity.

However, in the past few years I have realised that coaching can have only a limited impact if the system and culture of an organization, for instance, is not conducive to a coaching or learning way of leading.

During coaching, the client can gain great insights and can then go and implement new behaviours based on those insights. But then something can happen – almost as if the new frame of reference “collides” with what is going on within the organization (and often an organization has an inspirational mission statement and values but they are only words).

An example: I was part of an intervention at a manufacturing plant. We were there to teach people to lead in a coaching way – to get people to engage with each other in a “learning” way where listening and asking questions were key competencies. The training was successful and most people connected to this new way of engaging.

Unfortunately, when the pressure was on, most people also reverted back to their old style of “control and command”.

A frequent comment was, “It’s hard to collaborate with the other department when we compete against them for KPIs and numbers.”

I am now certain that most successful coaching interventions happen when they are part of a systemic intervention in which culture also shifts. Coaching then helps people to embed and really “live” the new way of doing things.

The Legitimate Leadership framework offers this systemic change to shift culture, and where coaching can be successful.

I became an associate of Legitimate Leadership because I believe in the “why” of the framework. The framework not only assists leaders in what they need to “do” as leaders, but more importantly, how they can “be”. It goes right to one’s intention as a leader and whether she is here to “take” from others, or to “give” or contribute to them.

Fundamentally, what also attracts me to this framework is that it speaks to the organization as a whole. When the organization subscribes to the framework, its focus as a whole shifts from “taking” to “giving”. The focus also shifts to qualities such as legitimacy, trust, contribution and accountability.

To shift the focus, the culture of the organization aligns to this new way of being as a system.

How is this done?

Some of the main ways are:

  • Align the organization’s mission, vision and values to be congruent with “giving”. The shift, for example, can be one where the organization was about “Being the best producer of X” to a giving organization where “We enable excellence for our customers”.
  • Align the structure of the organization so it is enabling for people to contribute, be empowered, and be accountable.
  • Re-invent the individual performance management system in order to really clarify contribution in a way where employees have control over their results, and where they can be held accountable.
  • Align discipline and reward systems to the new way of doing things.
  • Implement vertical and horizontal empowerment to facilitate the lessening of inappropriate or excessive controls in the organization.
  • Implement Grow to Care workshops for employees, where the focus is on personal, team and organization excellence, and intent.

So, for coaching to be effective it is important that it happens not in isolation but within a system that is conducive to people changing and living – within which they can behave in a way that is congruent to their values. The Legitimate Leadership framework creates this systemic shift and culture change.

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September 2019 – Question of the Month

By Wendy Lambourne 

Question of the Month: Do subcontractors or temporary employees give or take more than permanent employees?

Answer: There is a view that temporary employment arrangements are a wholesale “take” by employers because they allow employers to get the job done on the cheap. They also allow them to dispense with excess or troublesome people at will, because the labour broker does the “dirty work”.

Such behaviour, it is said, is the antipathy of caring for people at work. Temporary employment arrangements allow those in authority to exercise power over people without paying the price of power – which is to care for and grow people.

Clearly, keeping people on temporary contracts without the benefits which full time employees enjoy when they are actually doing the job for a considerable period of time is not right. But to ban flexible work arrangements is not appropriate. Firstly, such a move flies in the face of reality. There are industries, like Legitimate Leadership’s (the consulting industry), where the work is seasonal or unpredictable. Secondly not everyone wants a full-time job – many people like the autonomy, the flexibility, the option to work less than X days a month.

But more importantly, I think that the antagonism over other-than-full-time employment arrangements is a red herring.

This occurred to me when I did the following exercise. Firstly I listed everyone engaged in and associated with Legitimate Leadership  as an organisation, including myself. Then I wrote down my perceptions of each person in terms of their “give” and “take” or “concern for other” versus “concern for self”. So, for example, Person X’s Give/concern for other was 90% and Take/concern for self was 10%.

Happily the overall “give” percentage far outweighed the “take” percentage, but everyone was definitely not the same. In my experience there are both “givers” and “takers” in all organisations and at all levels in the hierarchy.

Next to the “Give”/“Take” percentage I then wrote down whether the person was an owner, subcontractor, permanent employee or associate of Legitimate Leadership. There was absolutely no correlation – the type of contractual arrangement did not in any way correlate with the intent of the individual.

I concluded that what enables “givers” at work is not a particular type of contractual arrangement. Rather it is the intent of those in charge. Leaders who are consistently in the relationship with their people to “give” to them – specifically to care for and grow them – do over time cultivate more “givers” than “takers” in their organisation. Such leaders ultimately remove persistent “takers” from their organisation. It is the appropriate leadership “give” to do so.

My advice to those in authority at work is therefore to make what is important to them the care and growth of their people – irrespective of the contractual arrangements they have with them.

If, as someone in authority you are demanding delivery from people, be they permanent or temporary, then you would be wise to care for and grow them.

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What Managers Who Care Actually Do

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.

Care is what one person does for another. In the context of legitimate relationships of power at work, it is what managers do for those in their charge. To Care for someone essentially means to have their best interests at heart. It is about serving the needs of the other person before one’s own.

Good parents instinctively put the child’s interests first because they care unconditionally. Good managers similarly put their employees’ interests first.

For most managers, unlike parents however, this is not an instinctive choice. Rather, it is a deliberate choice that they make repeatedly over time. Care is something, in other words, which managers foster over the course of the reporting relationship they have with those in their charge.

Care moreover is definitely not a “soft and fluffy thing”. Care in the heart is evidenced in both “soft” and “hard” behaviours.

Caring parents feed and clothe their offspring. They give them their love and attention. They educate, guide and support them. They also establish boundaries, discipline them and encourage or even force them to stand on their own two feet.

Managers who Care similarly behave in ways that are both “soft” and “hard”. They do the following:

  • Treat their people with respect.
  • Demonstrate sympathy for their personal concerns.
  • Make themselves available to listen openly to their people’s views.
  • Get to know him/her both as a person as well as an employee because they are genuinely interested in the human being behind the human resource.
  • Keep or stick to promises made because it is important to them not to let their people down.
  • Ensure that their people have the “means” to perform their jobs.
  • Ensure that their people receive the training and coaching they need to do their jobs to the required standard.
  • Involve or consult them on things that affect them.
  • Make sure that they come back or respond to both issues raised and questions asked.
  • Assist with work-related problems by removing obstacles in their people’s way.
  • Keep their people informed regarding how they and the business are performing, because they want to know.

They also do the following:

  • Demand delivery/insist on high standards because they want their people to be the best they can be.
  • Tell people like it is, both the good and the bad news, because speaking the truth to their people is important to them.
  • Take disciplinary action when required, in their people’s best interests.
  • Exercise fairness to all and have neither favourites or non-favourites.

In every interaction they have with their people, managers who Care act with their people’s highest and best interests in mind – which is to set them up to succeed and ultimately realise the best in themselves.

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August 2019 – Question of the Month

By Leonie van Tonder 

Question of the Month:  In a growing and living organisation, how do you ensure that Legitimate Leadership is maintained?

Answer:  Rolling out Legitimate Leadership in an organisation usually begins with a two-day introduction followed by a set of application modules, to the leadership group. In bigger organisations roll-out is normally done in layers of reporting structures, going downwards. This may take 18 months to two years.

In a growing and living organisation, a number of resignations and appointments will happen during this time. To create a positive continuation of roll-out and application of the Legitimate Leadership Model, you need all on board.

The challenge is to keep new staff in the loop of the Legitimate Leadership Model and to replace the people lost and roles they played.
To not lose momentum, the leadership must review the gaps on at least a 3-6 monthly basis. New appointees must be ‘brought into the fold’ regularly. Otherwise there will be puzzle-pieces missing and this will produce a brake in communication and application of the principles and practices.

This will require repeats of the two-day introduction for new appointees, and the application models.
In general it is also important to:

Create a “community of practise” where people can report on their achievements and challenges with care and growth

Assess all decisions on the basis of how they measure up to the Legitimate Leadership criteria.

Highlight good leadership actions and review bad/not-so-successful actions in the light of Legitimate Leadership principles – and learn how to do it better next time.

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July 2019 – Question of the Month

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.

QUESTION OF THE MONTH: How much time will caring for and growing my people demand of me?

ANSWER: Caring for and growing people does not cost money, but it does require a considerable amount of time. Caring and growing people cannot be done by email because it is, by definition, a face-to-face activity.

Care and growth gets done, as opposed to talked about, in three contexts: one-on-one discussions, team meetings, and in the ‘field’ where direct reports are getting the work done.

The starting point therefore is for leaders to spend sufficient time with their people. This often requires leaders to radically change how they are spending their time and what they are giving their attention to.

Spending sufficient time with their reports is critically important for leaders because the prime indicator of what anyone cares about is what the leader gives attention to and where she spends her time – simply because one has time for what one cares about.

Leaders who genuinely care about their people shift their attention from the results to their people – in line with their shift in intention from being in the relationship with their people to GET results out of them to being in the relationship to GIVE to their people what they need to become exceptional contributors and realise the best in themselves.

When leaders do not make the twin shifts in intention (from ‘get’ to ‘give’) and attention (from results to people) their people will undoubtedly conclude that whatever is important to their leaders, it is not them. They will infer, from the lack of time spent with them, that they are not valued relative to whatever is getting their leader’s attention. Trust, willingness and loyalty will suffer as a result.

Where any leader’s attention is focused is reflected in entries in his diary or calendar. Leaders who are doing care and growth have scheduled regular times in their diaries for one-on-ones, team meetings and for ‘watching the game’.

Leaders who abrogate or avoid their care and growth responsibilities have fewer or no such entries in their diaries.

Leaders’ diaries, in other words, never lie.

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The Role Of The Leader When It Comes To Pay

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.

As a generalisation, people in the corporate world seem to find it difficult to admit to being “happy” with their pay. A classic comment which illustrates this point came from an individual who said “I am not unhappy with my pay, at the moment”. The implication being that at any moment now he would regress from “not unhappy” to “unhappy” almost as a default position.

Given the above, we at Legitimate Leadership have struggled with the wording in our Leadership Profiles pertaining to satisfaction with pay. We have settled with the proposition “My current level of remuneration positively acknowledges my contribution”, to which there are the following responses: Strongly Agree/Agree/Don’t Know/Disagree/Strongly Disagree.

The combined responses are reflected on a 21 point scale from +10 (everyone strongly agrees with the statement) to -10 (everyone strongly disagrees that their current level of remuneration positively acknowledges their contribution).

What we have found is that in any group of leaders the scores on this item vary considerably. Why, one wonders, would this be the case if all respondents are subject to the same reward system?

One possible explanation is that in some areas in the company people are being paid fairly and in others they are not. If this is the case, leadership legitimacy requires that the inequities are addressed. It is only right that this is so.

My belief, however, is that in most instances, the variation in score reflects not so much the actual situation with respect to pay, but the individual leader.

Weak leaders are themselves unhappy with their pay and see themselves as fellow victims of the system. Their discontent is picked up and then shared by their people. The dissatisfaction at the top is then amplified down the hierarchy such that the negative score at the top becomes a negative score to the power of 10 lower down in the organisation.

Good leaders on the other hand act appropriately with respect to their people’s pay. They:

  • Take their people’s concerns with their pay (if they have them) seriously. They do not pass the problem on to HR. Rather, if it is a valid concern, they move heaven and earth to address it.
  • As representatives of the company they are advocates of the system and do not rail against it. If they feel that the system is fundamentally flawed, they positively challenge it and promote an alternative, or they leave.
  • They help their people to understand their remuneration, because they have made it their business to understand how the system works, and they then help their people to do what they can do within the system to change their reward.
  • They absolutely do not side with their people against the company in order to fuel the fires of discontent with respect to what people are paid.

An interesting observation that I have made over the years is that people who are employed and those who are self-employed feel what they are getting in reward differently.

It seems that part of being a corporate soul is to have a sense of grievance with how much one is earning – irrespective of the actual amount that comes into one’s bank account every month. The self-employed person on the other hand has no one to blame and as a result focuses her energies on doing what needs to be done to improve take-home earnings. She takes accountability for the situation that she is in rather than being a victim of it.

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Event: Legitimate Leadership Europe Launched

By Teigue Payne , Legitimate Leadership.

Legitimate Leadership has grown exponentially internationally in the past five years, particularly in Britain and Europe.

On Friday 21 June, Legitimate Leadership Europe was launched at a half-day event in Belgium. 35 senior executives in a diversity of companies, both European and global, were introduced to the principles and practices of Legitimate Leadership in a highly interactive session.

The event was hosted by Legitimate Leadership colleagues Hilde Lemmens and Carina Vignigni who have an impressive track record in enabling organisational transformation in their clients across a diverse range of companies and industries.

Wendy Lambourne, founder and director of Legitimate Leadership, provided insights into this unique leadership perspective and its application over 25 years in diverse contexts in 27 countries and five continents.

Jean–Pierre Filippine, managing director of Carglass Germany, shared his company’s experiences with implementing the Legitimate Leadership model over the past three years – and what Carglass Germany has achieved as a result, both in leadership and organisational performance. He said (our translation from Flemish): “It is the first sustainable leadership training that I have come across. It provides a simple and clear framework and results – not only for better leadership but also for heightened accountability in the organisation. Our results have also been positively influenced by it.”

Feedback from attendees was that this was truly inspiring. Most expressed interest in learning more, and many have signed up to attend a 2-Day Introductory Workshop near Genk, Belgium, in September.

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June 2019 – Question of the Month

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.

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The Hard Data On Being A Nice Boss

By Emma Seppälä, author of The Happiness Track; also co-director of the Yale College Emotional Intelligence Project and Faculty Director of the Women’s Leadership Program at the Yale School of Management; and Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE BY WENDY LAMBOURNE, DIRECTOR, LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP: We agree with Emma Seppälä that more than anything else, what determines employee engagement is the nature of the relationship between each employee and his/her immediate manager. However we do not agree that leaders should be “nice” or “tough”; we say they should be both. The universal answer to the question “who would you work for willingly/be your ideal boss?” is “a person who has a sincere and genuine interest in me as an individual and enables me to realise the best in myself”. A person, in other words who cares for AND grows me. Leaders need to evidence “tough love” for those in their charge. Of the two criteria, however, care is primary. This is because care is what gives leaders the licence to grow their people. Leaders can be anything other than “nice” just as long as they are acting with their people’s highest self interest in mind. The core criterion for success as a leader is not behaviour but intent.

OUR SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE, WHICH WAS PUBLISHED IN HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW: An age-old question is: Is it better to be a “nice” leader to get your staff to like you, or to be tough as nails to inspire respect and hard work?

Most people still assume the latter is best. The traditional paradigm seems safer: be firm and a little distant from your employees. They should respect you, but not feel so familiar with you that they might forget who’s in charge. A little dog-eat-dog, tough-it-out, sink-or-swim culture seems to yield time-tested results … right?

New developments in organizational research are providing some surprising answers to these questions.

What putting pressure on employees to increase performance does is increase stress—and research has shown that high levels of stress carry a number of costs to employers and employees alike.

Stress brings high health care and turnover costs. In a study of employees from various organizations, health care expenditures for employees with high levels of stress were 46 percent greater than at similar organizations without high levels of stress. In particular, workplace stress has been linked to coronary heart disease in both retrospective (observing past patterns) and prospective (predicting future patterns) studies. Then there’s the impact on staff turnover: research shows that workplace stress can lead them to look for a new job, decline a promotion, or leave a job.

Is it any better with “nice” managers? Do their employees fare better — and do kind bosses get ahead?

Contrary to what many believe, Adam Grant’s data shows that nice people can actually finish first, as long as they use the right strategies that prevent others from taking advantage of them. In fact, other research has shown that acts of altruism actually increase someone’s status within a group.

Harvard Business School’s Amy Cuddy and her research partners have also shown that leaders who project warmth – even before establishing their competence – are more effective than those who lead with toughness and skill. Why? One reason is trust. Employees feel greater trust in someone who is kind.

And an interesting study shows that when leaders are fair to the members of their team, the team members display more citizenship behavior and are more productive, both individually and as a team.

Jonathan Haidt at New York University Stern School of Business shows in his research that when leaders are self-sacrificing, their employees experience being moved and inspired. As a consequence, the employees feel more loyal and committed and are more likely to go out of their way to be helpful and friendly to other employees. Research on “paying it forward” shows that when you work with people who help you, in turn you will be more likely to help others (and not necessarily just those who helped you).

Such a culture can even help mitigate stress. While our brains are attuned to threats (whether the threat is a raging lion or a raging boss), our brain’s stress reactivity is significantly reduced when we observe kind behavior. As brain-imaging studies show, when our social relationships with others feel safe, our brain’s stress response is attenuated. There’s also a physical effect. Whereas a lack of bonding within the workplace has been shown to increase psychological distress, positive social interactions at work have been shown to boost employee health—for example, by lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and by strengthening the immune system. In fact, a study out of the Karolinska Institute conducted on over 3,000 employees found that a leader’s qualities were associated with incidence of heart disease in their employees. A good boss may literally be good for the heart.

In fact, what may come as a surprise to many HR directors, employees prefer happiness to high pay, as Gallup’s 2013 Workplace Poll shows. In turn, happier employees make not only for a more congenial workplace, but also for improved collegiality and customer service. A large healthcare study showed that a kind culture at work not only improved employee well-being and productivity but also improved client health outcomes and satisfaction.

Taken together, this body of research shows that creating a leadership model of trust and mutual cooperation may help create a culture that is happier, in which employees help each other, and (as a consequence) become more productive in the long run. No wonder their nice bosses get promoted.

But what constitutes a compassionate leadership style and workplace exactly? That is a trickier question. Many companies try to offer well-being “perks” such as the ability to work from home or receive extra benefits. A Gallup poll showed that, even when the workplace offered benefits such as flextime and work-from-home opportunities, engagement predicted well-being above and beyond anything else. And most of the research suggests that a compassionate workplace fosters engagement not so much through material goods as through the qualities of the organizations’ leaders, such as a sincere commitment to values and ethics, genuine interpersonal kindness, and self-sacrifice.

What is clear is that we’re going to have to start valuing kindness at work more. One depressing study out of Notre Dame suggests that for men, the more agreeable they are, the lower their pay rate. Because agreeableness does not impact women’s salary, the researchers theorize that when we don’t conform to gender norms, we’re punished. The answer is not for men to be cruel, but for us all to help change the norms. With a little skill, there are ways to be agreeable while not being a pushover or a softy. And then maybe we’ll all be a little bit happier at work.


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Your Diary Never Lies

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.

Caring for and growing people does not cost money, but it does require time – in fact, a considerable amount of time.  Further to this, caring and growing people cannot meaningfully be done by email because it is, by definition, a face to face activity.

More specifically care and growth gets done, as opposed to talked about, in three contexts: one-on-one discussions, team meetings, and out in the ‘field’ where direct reports are ‘playing the game’ or getting the work done.

The starting point for leaders to translate the Legitimate Leadership principles into practice, therefore, is for them to spend sufficient time with their people.  Typically, this requires leaders to change, sometimes radically change, how they are spending their time and what they are giving their attention to.

That leaders do spend sufficient time with their people is critically important because the prime indicator of what any person cares about is what they give attention to and where they spend their time.  This is simply because one has time for what one cares about.

Leaders who genuinely care about their people successfully shift their attention from the results to their people.  Their change in focus of attention is consistent with their shift in intention from being in the relationship with their people to GET results out of them to being in the relationship to GIVE to their people what they need to become exceptional contributors and realise the best in themselves.

When leaders do not make the twin shifts in intention (from ‘get’ to ‘give’) and attention (from results to people) their people will undoubtedly conclude that whatever is important to their leaders, it is not them.  They will infer, from the lack of time spent with them, that they are not valued relative to whatever is getting their leaders attention.  Trust, willingness and loyalty will suffer as a result.

Where any leader’s attention is focused is reflected in entries in his/her diary or calendar. Leaders who are doing their care and growth job have scheduled regular times in their diaries for one-on-ones, team meetings and for ‘watching the game’.  Leaders who abrogate or avoid their care and growth responsibilities have fewer or no such entries in their diaries.  Leaders’ diaries, in other words, never lie.  They are an accurate barometer of what leaders are choosing to make important to themselves and hence spend their time on.

The bottom line is simply this.  People trust leaders who they are convinced care about them.  Leaders will only be seen to care if they spend time with and give attention to their people.

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May 2019 – Question of the Month

By Ian Munro, director, Legitimate Leadership.

QUESTION OF THE MONTH:  Legitimate Leadership say we need to move from being a results-driven business to being a people-driven business?”

ANSWER: Many people think that Legitimate Leadership says that in order to succeed a business needs to move from being results-driven to being people-driven.

But we do not say this. Sustained success isn’t about committing to results or to people; it’s about committing to excellence.

The standard defence of a single-minded focus on results is, “We aren’t here to make friends. This is business. We’re here to deliver. And delivering means getting results.”

All of this seems true, but it doesn’t work because it doesn’t deliver excellence and value-add to the customer, and therefore is not sustainable.

Initially, a focus on the results will produce an upward curve. The job is getting done and only people in the business who do things to get the results are tolerated.

But pressure to sustain and get the result starts to show. External competition means that we become increasingly reactive in our actions and our decisions. Previously we weren’t competing with anyone; we were just giving it our best.

Internal and external turf wars develop and trust declines. There is increased accountability for output, and we worry less about accountability for input.

Stretch becomes stress. Results tend to flatline.

Strategy is unlikely to address the real problem, which is that people don’t want to be there.

In fact, in being mostly concerned with what we can get out of people, we have created a culture of taking, and by implication we have turned those around us into takers.

So, to cure this, presumably we should focus on people … right? Because when we have this focus performance goes up … correct?

No, when we have a focus only on people, with no concern for the results that they produce, we get a similar pattern.

Again we start with the energy to conquer the world. This results in collaboration and purpose, and together these drive performance. We attract talented people.

Actually, at this stage we attract both givers and takers – but we don’t make any distinction between the two.

Out of concern for everyone’s feelings, we give them lots of positive feedback. But we are diluting the real feedback which would grow, develop and encourage a culture of excellence. And some people start to abuse this because they are not confronted on these things.

Performance starts to drop. Soon the people who are doing a good job experience increased workload and strain because the work shifts to them. Those people soon don’t want to be there.

Customers start to wonder why they are now experiencing mediocre service.

Finally, there is financial underperformance, restructuring and redundancy.

So, to revert to the question, we must obviously balance our focus on people and results … right?

No, what is needed is a single-minded focus on excellence! Our answer is that businesses should focus on both of these things (people, and the results they produce) at the same time. Not in terms of what we are taking from them, but in terms of what we are giving to them. It is AND, not OR, and it is what leads to excellence.

I give X this task because I genuinely want her to be excellent at it and I’m offering my help because I genuinely want to help her. And I’m saying ‘you can do it yourself’ because I genuinely want her to learn. I’m not doing it so that I can get something out of her. I’m doing it so that she can become a better software writer/rider of a bike – so that she can one day win the Tour de France.

When we increase excellence in the person, what happens to the result? Does it fall away?

No, other things being equal, the result also goes up.

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Don’t Hire The Confident One – He’ll Become A Bullying Manager

By Rosamund Urwin, British journalist.

COMMENT BY WENDY LAMBOURNE, LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP: Rosamund Urwin’s article is deliberately provocative and stimulates some useful reflection on leadership.

Legitimate Leadership does not agree with everything that is stated as ‘fact’ in the article. The view that 60–70% of bosses are ‘bad’ is too pessimistic. Our experience suggests a less bleak outlook and that most people in authority can learn, with concerted practice, to lead effectively.

We also do not agree with the cut-and-dried gender bias. Our experience is that there are both men and woman who are good ‘care and growth’ leaders – and the converse.

But we absolutely agree that ‘leadership should be about managing down: turning a bunch of people into a high-performing team’. We also concur that not only appointment but also promotion decisions should be made with consideration of the individual’s leadership behaviour and practice as experienced by those who are on the receiving end of those behaviours and practices – namely, direct reports.

We also agree that ego–driven people in leadership roles are a problem. This is because the job of the leader is too make others, not themselves, big.

There are however other personal attributes which, if they are features of the leader, can undermine their capacity to lead. These are outlined in the article ‘Can anyone Lead?’ by Wendy Lambourne. In addition to being ego–driven those in authority will also not be effective leaders if they are virtuosos or cannot let go of their preference for the technical stuff; are overly-affiliative; can’t let go and trust others or are micro managers; are trapped in victim mode; and lack compassion/empathy.

OUR SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE: A leading business expert is warning that male narcissists perform well in job interviews but make disastrous leaders

Job interviews should be scraped to prevent narcissists — who will go on to mistreat their staff — from being hired as managers, according to the author of a new book by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.

Chamorro-Premuzic a professor of business psychology, believes that interviews encourage bosses to hire in their own image, rather than on merit.

“They invite us to perpetuate our biases,” he said. “What you need is data-driven assessment: CVs, psychological tests and analysis of past performance.”

He believes that the most self-aggrandising applicants perform better in interviews than their more humble and more understated peers.

Chamorro-Premuzic, 43, who teaches at Columbia University in New York and at University College London, says this means that those with an inflated sense of their own worth — rather than those who would make better bosses — often climb the corporate ladder. These candidates, he explains, are usually men. He estimates that 60-70% of workers have a bad manager.

“Narcissists interview really well,” said Chamorro-Premuzic. “We’re not great at judging competence, so when someone is unaware of their limitations, we think: ‘Ooh, they must be good!’

“They charm people initially, but they don’t make good bosses: they are more prone to bullying and harassment, and are resistant to negative feedback. They blame others for their mistakes and take credit for others’ achievements.”

The thesis of Chamorro-Premuzic’s book — Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders (and How to Fix It) — is that most organisations routinely promote the wrong candidates into ever-more senior leadership positions.

“People get rewarded for sucking up, but leadership should be about managing down: turning a bunch of people into a high-performing team,” he said.

“A good boss gives constructive feedback and makes staff perform to a higher level. This is relatively rare, compared to ‘my boss doesn’t care about my development and is more focused on politics’. The irony is that those in the latter group get on.”

Chamorro-Premuzic, who is also chief talent scientist at ManpowerGroup, the American staffing giant, feels that most people’s perceptions about what makes a good leader are wrong. Overconfident, narcissistic and even bullying bosses, such as the late Steve Jobs of Apple and allegedly the Topshop tycoon Sir Philip Green, are hailed as inspirational — at least for a time.

Instead, Chamorro-Premuzic argues that the qualities making a great leader are humility, integrity and competence. He believes that these virtues are more readily found in women, and points to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, as an example.

“Studies show that women lead in a more transformational way, are less likely to be absentee leaders and have more emotional intelligence,” he said.

If the workplace were a true meritocracy, Chamorro-Premuzic said, most bosses would be women and men with less traditionally masculine skills would be able to advance, too.

“Although I talk in the book about gender, I ultimately argue that it isn’t just about having more women — we need more ‘feminine’ leaders,” he said.

His work has led him to reject the views espoused by many diversity campaigners, who put the onus on women to change their behaviour — particularly by appearing more confident — to get ahead.

“We don’t realise what silly advice ‘women should be more confident’ is,” he said. “There has never been a connection between putting yourself forward for something and being good at it.

“The people who are best at something tend to be very self-critical.”


1.  You have just finished a big project that required you to toil way beyond the 9 to 5. The work has been well received. Does your boss:
a) Thank you for your dedication, remember your efforts when it comes to your next review and praise you to their own boss
b) Send you a “herogram” email
c) Claim all the glory and leverage it for another pay rise — for themselves?

2.  Your boss spends a lot of their time:
a) Helping staff develop their skills
b) Getting on with their own work — but struggling to nurture talent
c) Managing their own reputation with their bosses?

3.  You’ve made a mistake at work. It’s not dire — but it is going to take a lot of fixing, probably involving a never-ending email trail. Your boss:
a) Talks you through the problem and suggests fixes you work on together. Later, they give you constructive feedback on how to avoid the problem next time
b) Expects you to deal with the issue on your own
c) Berates you publicly with red-faced yelling so everyone knows that this was your fault — not theirs?

Mostly As Your boss is a good ’un. Don’t let them leave.

Mostly Bs Your boss is getting by — but failing to manage properly.

Mostly Cs You work for a narcissist. Start looking for a new job.

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April 2019 – Question of the Month

By Ian Munro, director, Legitimate Leadership.

QUESTION OF THE MONTH:  : How do you implement care and growth if the company’s existing reward system is tightly coupled to results? 

ANSWER: The Legitimate Leadership Model says people should be held accountable for their contribution. Not how hard they tried or how much effort they put in, and not whether the result was achieved or not, but their actual contribution against an agreed standard.

The leader then needs to determine whether the contribution made was on, above, or below the standard; understand why this was the case; and then reward, recognize, censure or discipline appropriately.

In practice, this can be difficult to implement. And in practice, most company rewards systems are actually funded by the results achieved. Rewards are tightly coupled to results and people are promised bonuses on the basis of how much money there is in the bonus pool (i.e. the result).

But the perceived conflict here with the Legitimate Leadership Model is often overstated. This is because in any leadership situation there are seven possibilities: Care; provide the Means; build the Ability; Reward; Recognise; Censure; Discipline.

A misaligned rewards/bonus system is not disabling of the Legitimate Leadership Model – it only actually affects one of the seven possibilities: reward.

If there is no money in the bonus pool for contribution, then get creative – or just type “how to reward without money” into Google.

The organisational fix to this problem is consistency and planning. If you reward for contribution consistently in both good and bad times, you fill the coffers during the good times by not giving money away to people who didn’t contribute, and so you have money in the bank to reward excellent contributions in when the bad times come.

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Leadership Practices Which Gain Legitimacy

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.

It has been shown beyond doubt that only when managers, individually and collectively, have a genuine concern for their people as human beings and enable them to realise the best in themselves will their people be willing. It is two drops of essence, care and growth, which gives those in authority legitimacy – not money.

More specifically legitimacy as a leader is earned only through the provision of:

CARE – people feel valued, trusted and listened to.

MEANS – people are provided with an enabling environment in which to contribute.

ABILITY – people are continually increasing their know-how and know why.

ACCOUNTABILITY – people are being held appropriately accountable.

The leadership outputs of Care, Means, Ability and Accountability in turn accrue or result from 16 leadership practices.



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What ‘Care’ Requires Of Leaders When Their People Have Personal Problems

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.

More than perhaps at any other time, a leader’s sincerity is put to the test when her people have problems of a personal nature. When a genuine personal problem arises – the death of a loved one, a divorce, a serious illness – do leaders notice and do they care?

What a leader should and should not do in these situations is a matter of debate. Should she approach an employee who has a personal problem but doesn’t want to talk about it? When is the best time to broach an issue? How should a sensitive issue be tackled? Is it ever appropriate to speak to someone else about the employee’s problem, especially if he has asked the leader not to?

To none of these questions is there a clear answer. The really critical question in fact relates not so much to the “when”, “where” and “how” of the problem but to the “why”.

When leaders talk to direct reports because their personal problem is affecting their delivery, they are revealing their intent: what they really care about is not their people but what they are getting out of them.

An employee’s personal problem and an employee’s work problem should be separate issues which are not conditional on each other. Care is in fact only care when it is unconditional, when it is delinked from the issue of work performance.

If the employee’s personal problem is impacting on his work performance, what is then appropriate? Now a leader’s sincerity is really put to the test because sincerity, in this situation, requires a leader to be tough, not sweet.

Being unconditional here requires that the leader still holds the employee accountable for his work performance. If the employee’s attention is not on the job because of problems at home, he should be made to understand that this is not acceptable. It may be appropriate, with agreement, to lower the work standards for a while, but not forever. Supporting a person through a personal crisis, while still insisting that he performs at his best, is what unconditional care means here.

In all cases of personal problems of employees, the leadership value which is at issue is Care. Dealing appropriately with personal problems means evidencing genuine concern or care. Care is only care, however, if it is unconditional. Being unconditional means still holding the person accountable for their work performance.

The only thing worse than a lack of care, however, is feigned concern. Leaders who don’t really care about the personal concerns of those in their charge, and who wish that person would leave his problems at home, add insult to injury when they profess otherwise. It is better that they be honest than lay claim to a concern which is not there.

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March 2019 – Question of the Month

By Ian Munro, director, Legitimate Leadership.

QUESTION OF THE MONTH:  What is Legitimate Leadership’s view of the value of detailed planning? 

ANSWER:  Having studied information technology (IT), and been an IT consultant, I was previously a firm believer in the power of detailed planning. I believed that the better you can predict the future, the better would be your end result.

However, as I came to learn repeatedly, predicting the future has its challenges! In fact I learned that a single-minded focus on achieving the predefined end result by following the predefined detailed plan often created more problems than it solved. And the more the detail, the more plentiful the assumptions. And the more plentiful the assumptions, the greater the chance of the future not turning out as it was supposed to!

Today I believe that one should keep the result in mind, but understand that it is actually just the outcome reached because of the incremental contributions made.

The plan should offer a guide, but it should also evolve and deepen as new information becomes available. The contributions, or value-adding activities that make up the whole deserve at least as much attention as the end point.

This is the foundation of the Legitimate Leadership Model. When we see leadership as an activity centred on achieving results through people (the conventional view), we reduce people to machines. If we were able to program people, and separate their labour from their self, this might be a productive definition.

However, as we can’t ask people to come to work while leaving their selves at home, we have a problem. We need to do more than just tell people what to do.

Effective leadership is about enabling people: engaging their hearts and minds as well as their bodies. The Legitimate Leadership Model holds that if willingness is what we want (and it certainly should be!) then the people need to be the end. The job, or task, or outcome, or result, is simply the subject matter we can use to achieve great people.

Wonderfully, experience has shown us that treating people as the end, as it happens, also yields the best results.

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February 2019 – Question of the Month

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership

QUESTION OF THE MONTH:  Can anyone lead, or is leadership just for charismatic people?

ANSWER:  The original research shows that trust in a leader is granted or withheld only on the basis of the employee’s perceptions of leadership’s genuine concern for their welfare. Extrapolating from this, leaders stand or fall on the basis of a single criterion: their INTENT or motive. Those in positions of authority, in essence, succeed to the degree to which they are there to “give” to their people (as opposed to “get” something out of them). Their intent bears no relationship to intellect, qualifications, interpersonal skill, managerial style or even personality. Each individual – no one else – determines the motive(s) behind their actions. Intent, and by extension leadership, is therefore a matter of the will. From experience, most managers who are taken through the above logic feel liberated because they are released from the notion that only those blessed with a charismatic personality, superior intellect, oratory skill and an inclusive management style can lead.

Yet there are still people in positions of authority who absolutely understand intent but still don’t succeed in leadership roles. They fall short against the care and growth criteria because of personal attributes which constitute fatal flaws in leading others.

We have found six attributes which seriously undermine leaders’ capacity to lead in line with the care and growth criteria.

  • Virtuosity or superior technical skill or prowess in a given field. This is an asset – but not for someone in a care and growth role. This is because the giving required of leaders is a giving to people, not to things. The Virtuoso may well want to make a contribution, but to things not people. As a result, Virtuosos hold onto what they know and love, which is the technical stuff, and neglect the care and growth of their people.
  • Affiliation or a need to be connected to or in harmony with others. Strongly affiliative leaders have a need to fraternise with their subordinates. Their need to be closely connected, to be friends, with their people can make it difficult to establish an appropriate distance from them or to hold them accountable when required. Taken further, a strong need to always put the relationship first can result in nepotism or undue patronage with the person/people with whom the leader has a special relationship.
  • Micro management and the enablement of others are mutually exclusive. This is because the empowerment of people, which is at the core of the Legitimate Leadership Model, is not possible without the capacity for trust and entrustment. Those in authority who need to be in control of outcomes find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to let go. They constantly check up on or second-guess the decisions taken by their subordinates.
  • Ego-driven leaders are in it for themselves. The success they strive for is their success, reflected in their position, level or significance – not that of their people. Their extreme competitiveness is experienced as ambition, sometimes ruthless ambition. They make very poor coaches. At an extreme, they diminish their people – in order to be “big “; they keep others “small “, which is the very opposite of what a legitimate leader is there to do.
  • Victims feel themselves to be at the mercy of forces beyond their control. They have what psychologists refer to as an “external locus of control”. Victims in charge are a problem. This is because victim behaviour is contagious, victims beget victims. Victim leaders often take the opportunity which high office affords them to get their own back on those they are convinced have disadvantaged them in the past. They use their position to take what they believe they are owed or are entitled to. At an extreme they plunder the resources that they have access to.
  • Lack of empathy can be experienced as a leader who lacks the “common touch”, is too patrician or aloof. Of greater concern is a person in authority who simply does not have a sincere concern for those in his/her charge, who has no compassion. This kind of leader is seen as hard-hearted, as a person who would easily sacrifice the people for the results, and who would never sacrifice the results for the people.
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A Precondition For Care Is That You Not Only Know, But Like, Your People

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.

There are two opposing points of view in this matter. The first is that leaders can still care for their people even if they don’t like them. The counter-argument is that it is not possible as a leader to care for people if you don’t like them.

Legitimate Leadership’s standpoint is that leaders can’t actively dislike their people and care for them. If the person is not likeable to the leader, the leader needs to learn to like him/her/them – or, if that is impossible, they need to move away from each other.

The majority of managers we spoke to at one organisation were very negative, bordering on hostile, towards their people. They consistently viewed them as lazy, arrogant, unwilling to accept authority, and entitled. Whether their perceptions were true or not was not the issue. In our view, as long as they held these opinions of their people, they were highly unlikely to demonstrate Care for them. We advised them at the time that, if they were serious about living up to the care and growth criteria, they should either change their minds about their people or get a new workforce.

In truth, when managers do not treat their people with respect it is because they don’t respect them – and their people will intuitively know that.

For managers to go so far as to love those in their charge may not be feasible, although I have met some exceptional leaders who do. But they absolutely do need to both respect their people and have a genuine regard for them. This is because Care comes from a place of respect and regard.

Leaders undoubtedly sometimes have people who report to them that they don’t like very much. This is because human beings don’t like everyone equally. When that is the case, it is the role of the leader to endeavour to learn to like the person more, not for the person to become more likeable. If the leader is unable to do this, it is probably in the direct report’s best interest for the leader to help that person to report to someone else; someone that will do a better job of caring and growing that person.

Conversely, to anyone who finds themselves reporting to someone who not only has no affinity with them, but really doesn’t like them, that person should take the opportunity to move on to someone who does like them enough to care for and grow them.

When I have reflected on my own leadership, I have concluded that every time I have failed with someone, it was more than anything else because I didn’t like that person enough.

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What Care Does Not Mean

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership

There are a number of myths about Care which still have credence in organisations today.

 MYTH ONE: COMPANIES CARE.  A common refrain in organisations is that the company does not care for its employees the way used to in the past. The “past” maybe two, 10 or even 25 years ago. Legitimate Leadership’s typical, and not very popular, response to this complaint is that of course it doesn’t. It never cared, and it never will do. Companies don’t care, people do.

To attribute a uniquely human quality to a non-human being or to an inanimate object, like an organisation, is clearly absurd.

MYTH TWO: TO CARE IS TO LOOK AFTER EMPLOYEES’ PHYSICAL AND MATERIAL NEEDS.  The second misconception is that Care is somehow synonymous with good working conditions and employee benefits. In fact, this is not true. In the seminal research into trust in management in South African gold mines, it was found that living and working conditions on the mines did not affect in any way employee trust in management.

This does not mean that employees’ physical and material needs should not be catered for. This is simply one of the costs of being in business. Moreover, when conditions are inhumane, or employees’ health and safety are compromised, employees are absolutely right to cite this fact as evidence of a lack of Care.

Good pay, benefits and facilities, however, are not what Care is about; rather, they are “caring carrots”. They bring people through the door and may earn a few points on a “Best Company to Work For” survey. But they are not substitutes for Care and never can be.

MYTH THREE: CARE IS THE JOB OF CARE SPECIALISTS.  The third myth is that Care is somehow the reserve of Care specialists. This myth is predicated on the notion that managers are there to achieve results through people. The human problem can therefore be relegated to some third party, allowing those in authority to get on with their real work of producing results.

This notion denies the reality that a manager’s right to demand delivery, to exercise power, is not granted on the basis of rank or because the employee is paid to deliver. Rather a manager earns the right to ask someone to do something only if the manager cares about that person sincerely.

To ignore this reality is not only wrong but dangerous. When employee union representatives take better care of employee concerns than management does, the union runs the site. When the Human Resources Department, rather than the immediate manager, is more sympathetic to employee problems, trust in management lessens.

People specialists have a role to play but it is not to do the job of Care on the line manager’s behalf.

MYTH FOUR: A BOSS WHO CARES IS A FRIEND.  Bosses can be friendly but not friends. At least they cannot need the friendship of those who report to them too much. This is because a need to be friends with their people can make it difficult for managers to establish an appropriate distance from those in their charge or take disciplinary action when it is required. Taken further, a strong need to always put the relationship first can result in nepotism or undue patronage of people with whom the leader has a special relationship.

In recognition of this human need to be liked, organisations try to avoid reporting relationships between family members or a situation where a “mate” on Friday becomes a boss on Monday. It is not that the tough side of Care is impossible with a friend, but it is difficult because there is a natural tendency in those circumstances to put the relationship, rather than what is right, first.

Care is the job of the immediate manager, no one else. Moreover, it is only Care, nothing else, that gives managers legitimacy.

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Which Is Better, Rewards Or Punishments?

By Heather Turgeon, New York Times. Heather Turgeon is a psychotherapist and co-author, with Julie Wright, of the new book “Now Say This: The Right Words to Solve Every Parenting Dilemma”.

COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE BY WENDY LAMBOURNE, DIRECTOR, LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP: What is referred to in this article as Rewards and Punishment are what Legitimate Leadership would see as “Sticks” and “Carrots”. Both Sticks and Carrots are conditional – they are a give-to-get and have inevitable consequences at work and at home. Sticks induce resistance while Carrots lead to counter-manipulation or retaliation. They get movement but not willingness. We totally agree with the author’s comments on this. However, at Legitimate Leadership we see Reward/Punishment/Discipline as different to Sticks and Carrots. They are unconditional and are about unconditional giving. Punishment is about unconditional justice while Reward is about unconditional generosity. Carrots and Sticks bring out the worst in human beings while appropriate Punishment and Reward enable people to be the best that they can be.

OUR SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE: Rewards and Punishments are conditional, but our love and positive regard for our kids should be unconditional. Here’s how to change the conversation and the behavior.

“I feel a sense of dread as bedtime rolls around. Here we go again.” A parent often says this, feeling frustrated and stumped at the anticipated ignoring of parents’ directions and melt-down at the mention of pajamas.

Should they sternly send him to time out and take away his screen time (Punishments)? Or set up a system to entice him with stickers and prizes for good behavior (Rewards)?

Many parents grew up with punishments, and it’s understandable that they rely on them. But punishments tend to escalate conflict and shut down learning. They elicit a fight or flight response, which means that sophisticated thinking in the frontal cortex goes dark and basic defense mechanisms kick in. Punishments make us either rebel, feel shamed or angry, repress our feelings, or figure out how not to get caught.

So rewards are the positive choice then, right?

Not so fast. Rewards are more like punishment’s sneaky twin. Families find them alluring (understandably), because rewards can control a child momentarily. But the effect can wear off, or even backfire: “How much do I get?” a client told us her daughter said one day when asked to pick up in her room.

Over decades, psychologists have suggested that rewards can decrease our natural motivation and enjoyment. For example, kids who like to draw and are, under experimental conditions, paid to do so, draw less than those who aren’t paid. Kids who are rewarded for sharing do so less, and so forth. This is what psychologists call the “overjustification effect” — the external reward overshadows the child’s internal motivation.

Rewards have also been associated with lowering creativity. In one classic series of studies, people were given a set of materials (a box of thumbtacks, a candle and book of matches) and asked to figure out how to attach the candle to the wall. The solution requires innovative thinking — seeing the materials in a way unrelated to their purpose (the box as a candle holder). People who were told they’d be rewarded to solve this dilemma took longer, on average, to figure it out. Rewards narrow our field of view. Our brains stop puzzling freely. We stop thinking deeply and seeing the possibilities.

The whole concept of punishments and rewards is based on negative assumptions about children — that they need to be controlled and shaped by us, and that they don’t have good intentions. But we can flip this around to see kids as capable, wired for empathy, cooperation, team spirit and hard work. That perspective changes how we talk to children in powerful ways.

Rewards and punishments are conditional, but our love and positive regard for our kids should be unconditional. In fact, when we lead with empathy and truly listen to our kids, they’re more likely to listen to us.



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January 2019 – Question of the Month

By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership

QUESTION OF THE MONTH:  What are the main reasons why supervisors don’t lead?

ANSWER:  There is undoubtedly both a Means and Ability issue when it comes to leadership. But mainly there is an intent issue.

Regarding the Means to lead, some supervisors are literally disallowed from performing their role when they are given impossible numbers of direct reports, have no authority to make decisions, are not backed up when they take disciplinary action, and rotated so that they have a different group of people reporting to them on every shift.

Regarding Ability, leadership requires skill, for example, to differentiate between Means, Ability and Accountability issues as well as to hand over accountability incrementally. Organisations would be loathe to put someone onto operating an expensive piece of equipment without training them. Yet very often they put people in charge of other people’s lives without preparing them for this most difficult job.

But all that said, my experience is that neither a lack of means or ability count anywhere as much as intent. Personally, whenever I have failed in my leadership, on reflection it has always been because I didn’t care about the individual enough. I have taken into the relationship aspects such as that I wanted him to have a good opinion of me, I felt that she owed me something, I wasn’t courageous enough to put the outcome at risk, etc. Leadership, at the end of the day, actually isn’t about them it is about me; I, not them, are the project.

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People Want To Make Money. They Also Want To Make A Difference

By Americans Elizabeth McLeod and Lisa Earle McLeod (creator of the business concept Noble Purpose and author of the bestseller Selling with Noble Purpose: How to Drive Revenue and Do work That Makes You Proud).

COMMENT BY IAN MUNRO, DIRECTOR, LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP: This article aligns closely with Legitimate Leadership’s view that people will give unconditionally to three things: 1) a purpose worth giving to, 2) a passion worth giving to, 3) and a person worth giving to. In this respect, millennials are no different from everyone else. Great workplaces invariably have great purpose, great passion and great people.

McLeod’s first and last points talk directly to the Legitimate Leadership criteria of Care and Growth. Care is about getting personal and figuring out what makes people “tick”. Growth happens when we tolerate only the best from our people and our teams. Only when leaders give us these two things do they elevate themselves to the descriptor “people worth giving to”.

McLeod is also accurate in saying that purpose is about more than ROI. It is about asking what our organisation is here to give. What contribution do we collectively aspire to making? Answer that question and you may have a purpose that people are willing to give to.

Lastly, on passion: if you want your team to be “on fire for what we’re doing”, then you really need to be on fire too!

OUR SLIGHTLY EDITED VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE: Attracting and keeping top millennial talent is a burning issue for leaders. Millennials are 35% of the workforce; by 2020 they’ll be 46%.

Some of our most successful clients, like Google, are filled with millennials who are on fire for their jobs. Yet many organizations struggle to attract and retain top millennial talent.

The millennials are telling us what we already know in our hearts: people want to make money; they also want to make a difference. Successful leaders put purpose before profit, and they wind up with teams who drive revenue through the roof.

Elizabeth McLeod, in An Open Letter to Management, wrote:

You hired us thinking this one might be different; this one might be in it for the long haul. We’re six months in, giving everything we have, then suddenly, we drop a bomb on you: we’re quitting.

We know the stereotypes. Millennials never settle down. We’re drowning in debt for useless degrees. We refuse to put our phones away. We are addicted to lattes.

Our bosses are not wrong about these perceptions. But, pointing to our sometimes-irresponsible spending and fear of interpersonal commitment isn’t going to solve your problem. You still need us. We’re the ones who’ve mastered social media, who have the energy of a thousand suns, and who will knock back $5 macchiatos until the job is done perfectly.

I’ve worked in corporate America, administrative offices, advertising agencies, and restaurants. I’ve had bosses ranging from 24 to 64. I’ve had bosses I loved, and bosses I didn’t. I’ve seen my peers quit, and I’ve quit a few times myself. Here’s what’s really behind your millennials’ resignation letter:

  1. You tolerate low-performance. It’s downright debilitating to a high achiever. I’m working my heart out and every time I look up Donna Do-Nothing is contemplating how long is too long to take for lunch. I start wondering why leadership tolerates this. Is that the standard here? No thanks.

FACT: Poor performers have a chilling effect on everyone.

  1. ROI is not enough for me. I spent Sunday thinking about how I can make a difference to our customers. Now it’s Monday morning, what do I hear? Stock price. Billing. ROI. Suddenly, my Monday power playlist seems useless. I’m sitting in a conference room listening to you drag on about cash flow. I was making more money bartending in college than I am at this entry-level job. You say I’ll get a raise in a year if the company hits a certain number? So what? I need something to care about today. Talk to me about how we make a difference, not your ROI report.

FACT: Organizations with a purpose bigger than money have a growth rate triple that of their competitors.

  1. Culture is more than free Panera (bread). Don’t confuse culture with collateral. Yes, I am a cash-strapped millennial who really appreciates free lunch. I need to be surrounded by people who are on fire for what we’re doing. I need a manager who is motivated to push boundaries and think differently. Working in a cool office is really awesome, as is free lunch. But a purposeful culture is more important.

FACT: A culture of purpose drives exponential sales growth.

  1. It’s ok to get personal. Treat me like a number and I’ll return the favor. This job will quickly become nothing more than my rent payment. I’ll start living for Friday and counting down the minutes until 5. After a few months of that, I’ll probably have a drunken epiphany and realize I want more out of my life than this. Then I’ll prove your assumptions right. Eight months in, I’ll quit and leave. Or worse, I’ll quit and stay, just like Donna-Do-Nothing.

That’s not good for either of us. Here’s what you need to know: I was raised to believe I could change the world. I’m desperate for you to show me that the work we do here matters, even just a little bit. I’ll make copies, I’ll fetch coffee, I’ll do the grunt work. But I’m not doing it to help you get a new Mercedes.

I’ll give you everything I’ve got, but I need to know it makes a difference to something bigger than your bottom line.


A Millennial