Getting Employees to Buy-In: Legitimate Leadership (an MP Star Financial Business Book Review)

by | Human Resources

The conventional employer/employee relationship, where a certain amount of labor is exchanged for a certain amount of money or other compensation, has been in place for roughly six thousand years.

That’s pretty well entrenched.

But anything can be improved upon. Besides, it’s interesting that, while so many critical factors impacting the way business is conducted have dramatically changed over the last 20 years (Internet and e-commerce, growth in emerging economies, and the competition for natural resources, to name a few), the way people are led, or managed, has barely changed at all.

Companies tend to give trite, PR-infused lip service to the notion that “our people are our greatest resource” and the like. But the art of managing or leading – not as an exercise in do-gooder-ism, but as a means to legitimately grow and improve a company’s performance – has been stuck in a serious rut for as long as most of us can remember.

Businesses are still primarily comprised of people – living, thinking, emotional human beings – and Wendy Lambourne’s new book, Legitimate Leadership (2013, Rogue Works LLC), breaks new ground in explaining exactly how a more effective leadership style can benefit employers and employees in terms of productivity and job satisfaction.

Care and Growth

No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.

                                                                             – Theodore Roosevelt

Lambourne, an industrial psychologist, bases her book on the Care and Growth Leadership Model developed by Etsko Schuitema, a business consultant based in South Africa. Schuitema developed his model after years of observing the relationships between workers and their supervisors in gold mines near Blaauwbank and Johannesburg.

In searching for factors that minimized conflict, while also resulting in trust and allegiance to management , Schuitema discovered that employees who felt their immediate supervisors were genuinely interested in their well-being performed more effectively than those who believed management didn’t care.

In fact, his research showed that the strength of a particular manager – and his ability to achieve desired results – was directly tied to his perceived interest in the well-being of his employees.

That sounds kind of warm and fuzzy, even for the most forward-thinking manager or company owner. But fortunately, in Legitimate Leadership, Lambourne provides guidelines for the practical implementation of the Care and Growth model. And while Legitimate Leadership is written for the serious reader and would never be confused with The One Minute Manager, or any of the For Dummies titles, Lambourne is impressive in finding the fine line between academic exercise and real-world business advice.

While a bit slow out of the gate (Stay with it! Sections 2, 3 and 4 are excellent), Legitimate Leadership quickly evolves into an approachable, insightful read that has you mentally comparing your workplace or company to what’s possible when employees are more fully engaged.

After a review of the Care and Growth Model, topics like employee enablement and accountability are given much attention. But Legitimate Leadership also drills down to less obvious areas like “what makes a good coach?” and details how certain processes can be effectively overhauled.

The book’s best moments are probably when Lambourne introduces and explains the Five Steps to Empowerment, where employees are entrusted with authority, and then held accountable. That might sound old-school, but the perspective is fresh, and Lambourne’s recommendations for implementation are valuable. Any manager or owner in a labor-intensive business should make this required reading for himself at least once a year.

A Solid Business Manual

Legitimate Leadership is a solid business manual and great starting point for managers who want to bring an atmosphere of greater employee involvement and commitment to their companies. (And who doesn’t?) That said, any reader would do well to familiarize herself with some of Schuitema’s management theories before jumping in.

It should be mentioned, too, that Schuitema’s early research was conducted when South Africa was still struggling under apartheid (where the white minority enjoyed significantly more privileges than the majority of people living there), a tragic system that most westerners today could not even comprehend.

Surely if the Care and Growth model, and Lambourne’s tactics for implementing it, worked under those circumstances, chances for success are even better in a more progressive society and working environment.

Watch for another business book review at MP Star Financial soon!


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