QUESTION OF THE MONTH: Do we need to totally change our performance management and rewards systems to successfully implement the Legitimate Leadership Model in our organisation?
ANSWER: There is an overall response as well as both a short-term and a longer-term answer to the question.
OVERALL RESPONSE: Legitimate Leadership is about people and relationships – it is NOT about systems, processes and structures. It is patently incorrect to say, for example, “I can’t empower my staff to make their own leave decisions because ‘the leave system’ requires me to authorise their leave.” Or to say, “We can’t enable employees’ above-and-beyond contribution until we only reward people for their contribution (what they give), not the results (what they get).”
Caring for and growing one’s people is a choice. The behaviours and practices which emanate from the Legitimate Leadership Model are therefore absolutely possible within any performance management and reward system.
SHORT-TERM: Legitimate Leadership is not about performance managing people. It is about enabling people to willingly make an above-and-beyond contribution and, in the process, realising the best in themselves. This happens when leaders do the following:
The above leadership actions take time and the will to do them. Leaders moreover undoubtedly get better at performing these actions through deliberate practice.
In short, these leadership actions can be performed within, or in a way which complements, an organisation’s performance management and reward system, whatever the actual system is.
LONGER TERM: Having said the above, it is also true to say that successfully implementing the Legitimate Leadership Model generally necessitates, at some point in time, a modification of an organisation’s performance management and reward systems. This is because, in most organisations, the performance management process is seriously at odds with the Accountability aspect of the Legitimate Leadership Model.
The analogy is of the pig farmer who returns the freshly-cleaned pigs to a dirty sty and wonders why they are soon back to the colour they were before he removed them. Convincing leaders of the principles of Accountability through application workshops when their day-to-day context is blatantly in contravention of these principles clearly undermines or limits the practical application of these principles.
Making changes to the company’s performance management and reward systems should however be done slowly and incrementally, one step at a time. It absolutely should be done for the right reasons and made with full cognizance of the change management issues which need to be addressed in the process.