There is an astounding lack of leadership in corporate culture.
There are many people in management roles, but very few inspiring leaders.
In fact, when I recently asked a group to name some inspiring leaders they work with, they came up blank.
There are many examples of good leaders in sport, think Graham Henry, Arthur Lydiard, Casey Kopua, or even your local club coach who volunteers time to the community with enthusiasm and passion.
How can this leadership be emulated in a corporate environment? Fundamentally it begins with two key factors:
1. Look after your people (your team)
The short-term cost cutting exercises many corporates employ very rarely offset the negative impacts on productivity, morale and long-term sustainable success.
Two vastly different examples highlight a short-term versus long-term focus.
The first is British Airways, who in 2008 were faced with declining passenger numbers, increased competition and higher fuel costs. A team of external consultants proposed 400 layoffs which happened over September to October 2008. In May 2009, British Airways reported a loss of $830million pounds, citing the original underlying forces: declining numbers, increased competition and higher fuel costs. Lay-offs did not address the root cause.
The alternate example is Barry-Wehmiller, a large American manufacturer. In 2008 when the financial crisis hit this company lost 30% of their orders almost overnight. While most other companies were dealing with this through lay-offs, Bob Chapman (CEO) said to his employees that "it is better that we should all suffer a little than any of us should have to suffer a lot".
He then announced that the company would save its required $10 million by mandating, across every single person in the company, four weeks of unpaid leave. No one lost their job and they saved $20 million.
Earlier this year, Canterbury University released the findings of a study on the differences between coaching philosophies of New Zealand, Australian and South African rugby coaches. They found that the difference with New Zealand coaches was that they viewed their players as people; they cared about them both on and off the field. This is embodied in the All Blacks core philosophy "better people make better All Blacks".
2. Leadership by example
We have all heard the old adage that "a captain goes down with the ship". Leadership is a responsibility not a rank. Inspiring leaders must be willing to sacrifice comforts, when it matters, for the good of their people.
Just look at recent examples of the Costa Concordia Captain, tried for manslaughter, or Lee Jun-seok the Korean captain (now in jail).
Both abandoned their ships, and their responsibility to passenger safety.
Compare this to Capt Chesley B Sullenberger III, the pilot of flight 1549, whose plane emergency landed in the Hudson river. He has been hailed a national hero, only leaving the plane once all 155 passengers had been pulled to safety.
Trust grows when leaders exhibit the behaviours they are asking of their team. This gives the feeling, as Sir Peter Blake put so well, 'that we're all in it together' ... the guy greasing the winches is just as important as the skipper.
In a corporate environment, a leader cannot ask of their team behaviours or actions that they are not willing to exhibit themselves.
Earlier this year Dan Price, CEO of American company Gravity Payments, cut his pay by almost $1 million so that every employee could be paid at least $70,000. Why did he do this? He wanted to give his employees the freedom to do their jobs without having to worry about money, and already over 100 CEOs have contacted Price to pledge their support.
It is important to remember that being a manager is not the same as being a leader. Good leaders must care for their people and lead by example, it is not an easy path to choose, but it is a rewarding one.