Why it’s Essential to Have Leaders as True Role Models – 2nd in a series of distillations from Wavelength Connect’s Behind The Brand Modules
A unique part of Wavelength’s Connect programme takes participants inside a range of organisations Behind the Brand to learn first-hand, warts n’ all, from those that have been there and done it. Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at what they learnt and showing some examples of who shines within Wavelength’s nine fundamental characteristics of high performing organisations. In the second part of our Behind the Brand blog series, we are looking at the subject of Leadership.
Visiting Liverpool Football Club, Connect participants met one of the finest examples of powerful and impressive leadership. Peter Moore, CEO, is Liverpool born and bred. He started life as a PE teacher and following an illustrious marketing career pursued a dream of becoming CEO of his home football club. What is fascinating is the way he and his team have created a brilliant narrative around what it means to be a Liverpool football fan and to be a team. They believe “this is not a stadium, this is home” and “the owners are not owners, they are stewards.” We are not just playing football “we are making history every day”.
Peter’s passion, commitment and dedication to the team and the club has garnered huge praise and been a driving force in Liverpool FC’s popularity at home and away, as well as the creation of a loyal (and semi-obsessive!) fan base.
A different type of organisation but one that is nonetheless impressive in leadership terms is the BBC.
The organisation’s move to MediaCityUK in Salford back in 2004 was the biggest media relocation project in history, and not without controversy. Alice Webb, Director of BBC Children’s and Education and former Director BBC North,, talked us through how she was able to distil the business case internally and spearhead the project. She led by example and agreed to relocate her whole family to Salford. She and her former colleague, Peter Salmon, conducted one-to-one meetings with all those who had to consider relocating to give authentic and heartfelt support. Not formal, box-ticking HR driven meetings, but open and real two-way conversations. Here she shared the culture and aspirations of the newly forming division. The message was clear – this is something they were going to do together.
Alice also created The Leadership Group of the north, with the premise that this was a team, not a group of individuals. It was formed two years before the move and comprised those who were both for and against it. They took on the bold task to make a success of a relocation that was unsettling and unpopular for many. The group is now a network for innovation and collaboration and has been instrumental in the huge success of BBC North. The enormously challenging project was achieved on time and under budget.
A fantastic example of leadership going above and beyond, being authentic and demonstrating the vision to bring doubters on side and achieve something incredible.
John Lewis & Partners showed us another brilliant approach. All 83,000 staff are partners who own the 51 John Lewis stores across the UK. The partnership model forms part of their constitution established in 1929 by the founder John Spedan Lewis and was an experiment in industrial democracy, which sees employees (not shareholders) profit from the business.
What does it mean for leadership? Like all democracies the system operates with various councils and committees and representatives are voted for. It is one of the truest examples of leading by example, as every representative must earn and maintain the confidence of their colleagues. And those leading must be actively demonstrating the best interests of those who they represent.
Interestingly, the business rarely uses the term ‘leader’ always opting for ‘partner’ which pays back to the democratic approach.
Strong organisational leadership also runs through The LEGO Group. Sixteen years ago, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. Former CEO, Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, was responsible for the brand re-discovering its purpose and leading innovation to bring the business back to being one of the most profitable kids and family brands in the world.
This demonstrated true resilience in the face of adversity. The company operates a virtual ‘leadership’ playground based on the premise that everybody should feel energised every day. They have started to measure leaders against this. This means embracing diversity and individuality, space and freedom, and offering inspiration through words, behaviours and everyday actions.
As Cecilia Weckstrom, Director at LEGO said: “If you are sat there thinking you have all the answers you are at a fundamental disadvantage.”
LEGO’s current CEO, Niels Bjorn Christiansen, still commits his time to new projects, often taking an operational role, developing and learning alongside his team and truly leading by example.
As Ronald Reagan so aptly said: “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”
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