Articles

Legitimate Leadership Introduced In Cambridge

August 15, 2016 - By Tony Flannigan, Associate, BSc (1st Hons) Naval Architecture MSt Manufacturing Leadership

cambridge

A group of Executive MBAs from the Judge Business School at Cambridge University recently participated in a 1-day workshop introducing the Legitimate Leadership Model. The model itself is a significant challenge to conventional leadership thinking of the past century.

Its central principle, that acceptance of a leader has more to do with the leader’s INTENT than anything else, presents a thought-provoking stance from both academic and practical perspectives.

It turns out that thought-provoking, academic and practical was a good fit for a group of individuals who are both students and executives at the same time – some of the feedback received includes:

  • “Thanks for running an excellent two day course (in one day). I have already heard some of the participants using the learning in our JBS sessions on corporate governance this weekend… Really enjoyed it. Very useful.”
  • “The universality of the principles of C+G across countries and regions is appealing for my organisation”
  • “It was really thought provoking, and although baby steps I have implemented one change at work already…I realised it would be way better to empower people to just tell me when they were having time off, and give the parameters of when it was ok to book leave, and just hold them accountable when they move outside these parameters.”

The introduction to the Legitimate Leadership Model took the format of the full-day workshop, followed by an informal dinner talk and Q&A. Special thanks must go to Tony Flannigan, of Johnson Matthey Catalysts, who added “colour and insight” for applying a model that he has personal experience of at Johnson Matthey over the last decade.

The day-time session was lively, with the students vigorously debating finer details of the model as it’s logic unfolded and insights became apparent. Tony’s personal experience of Legitimate Leadership was certainly helpful in allaying some of the “but is this really possible? / can this approach really work?” concerns. Answer to both questions: yes.

The evening session addressed the topic “When improving your business model isn’t your best option”. Every business needs to constantly challenge itself to be better. Leaders know this, and they typically rise to the challenge by designing ever more sophisticated models of external engagement and internal operation. We have seen first-hand that some of that effort, perhaps occasionally even all of it, would be better spent transforming one’s people who “have to” into people who “want to”. The evening talk explored why it’s so important to be a “want to” business, and why getting there might be simpler, but more challenging than one might imagine.

Again, a lively debate and Q&A ensued. One of the key insights that emerged was that addressing employee engagement is increasingly important in businesses, but that many businesses don’t know what to do about it beyond following up on surveys. Simply instructing managers to improve employee engagement scores, which are in fact a collective result, can be disabling for individual managers who don’t really know what to actually do differently. Our response – start by thinking differently, stop believing you can buy people’s engagement, understand what caring for your people actually means, re-prioritise empowerment over control, and simply give your people the time and attention they need to be exceptional.

Tony Flannigan
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