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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.