The best leaders are inspirational, unyielding in their integrity and are leaders by example
A leader is someone you’ll follow willingly through the darkest times. Why? Because you trust them, they’re inspiring and you respect their values and behaviours.
The leaders who’ve made the biggest impression on me share many of Clare Pelham’s traits. They have been inspirational, unyielding in their integrity and leaders by example; they have made people feel safe to speak up; they have been decision makers, problem solvers and teachers.
‘Good leaders are inspiring and you respect their values and behaviours’
But most importantly, they have built team relationships, showing positive energy, attitude and fun in their work.
This is inspirational leadership in my book – it stirs something in you, a call to action that you’ll follow.
- Tackling the cultural challenges of leadership
- The woman who banned the f-word to turnaround an ailing organisation
Wing to wing time
Years ago I worked for GE Aviation which overhauls aircraft engines for major airlines. I have been struck by the parallels with healthcare – a customer would send us a “sick” engine and we would nurture it back to health.
One key performance measure was “wing to wing time” from the engine’s removal from the wing, to its reinstallation.
For our customers delays were serious, resulting potentially in a scheduled aircraft being grounded at huge cost.
‘Once you see and feel a change in people’s words and actions, you know the whole organisation is starting to pull in the same direction’
“Length of stay” was therefore a perennial challenge for us too, and delays were compounded by a culture that olerated lateness (lateness to meetings; lateness delivering engine parts; lateness against report deadlines).
Then along came a leader who challenged this culture, and a leadership team whose mantra became “it’s not OK to be late”.
The phrase was emblazoned on washroom mirrors, posters, doors, leaving individuals to determine what it meant to them specifically. Before long, colleagues would say to each other in the lunch queue, “it’s not OK to be late you know” and the organisation began changing its behaviours.
Ms Pelham has made many behaviours into expectations at Leonard Cheshire – “you don’t walk past”; “if you’re not proud of it, you shouldn’t be doing it”; “never say something about someone you wouldn’t say to their face”.
These come from a passion (and compassion) to do the right thing. But they are not abstract - they mean something to everyone and describe behaviours that exemplify real values.
Once you see and feel a change in people’s words and actions, you know the whole organisation is starting to pull in the same direction - the culture is shifting.
Mark Ebbens is a partner at GE Healthcare Finnamore Consulting