Looking in the mirror

Posted by: on Feb 25, 2014 | No Comments

I was asked the other day what I enjoy most with doing what I do for a living.

This is an interesting question and not easy to answer. I have come to the conclusion that I do like to be a leader — I enjoy leading people. Leading people is an enormous responsibility but also a true honour. There are of course less enjoyable parts of leadership: for example, having difficult discussions with employees or even firing employees, but this is something that does come with leadership. There will always be people who are not right for the company and then they should not be with the company.

I read a book some years ago called From Good to Great. This book has fascinated me ever since. It was written by Jim Collins in the 1990s and is the best book on leadership I have ever read. The book is evidence-based which makes it even more compelling to read. The book describes ‘Level 5 Leadership’ and how level 5 leaders ‘look in the mirror’ when things go wrong. This is explored through a few key themes:

  1. People first, then strategy. Getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus. To achieve this, the recruitment processes in a company typically need to be amended (for example, attitude is more important than technical competence). Equally important is to realise when a person should be removed from the team. Having the wrong people on the bus is very dangerous for any organisation. Once you have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away. The right people do not need to be tightly managed or fired up; they will be self-motivated by the inner drive to produce the best results and to be part of creating something great.  According to Collins, “if you have the wrong people, it does not matter whether you find the right direction; you still will not have a great company. Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”
  2. Important to always confront the brutal facts. Remember Kodak: it did not realise it was in the imaging business and not in the photography business. They went bankrupt as a consequence. This involves understanding what the members of the organisation actually think about the company, an internal satisfaction survey. Establish the facts and not blame anybody for one’s own mistakes as a leader of a team.
  3. According to Collins, a great company does one big thing consistently. Trying to do many things and not understanding what the real priority is will not make a great company. It is all about securing that key priorities are agreed and that they are communicated at every opportunity. A great company does what this company is best in the world at. It is important to define what ‘best in the world’ means. For Diaverum, this could be to be the most patient-centred renal care company in the world. Good-to-great companies do what they can do best (as opposed to what they want to do best), what they are deeply passionate about, and they focus on what drives their economic engine.
  4. A great company also focuses on the key economic drivers and works hard to keep things very simple. Key economic drivers in the case of Diaverum could be share of clinics with more than 100 patients or a patient satisfaction score on or above a certain level. I am a strong believer in the concept of securing highest possible medical outcomes, patient satisfaction scores and staff satisfaction scores. Any Diaverum centre with great performance in these three areas will also be a profitable centre.

The ‘Level 5 Leadership’ is a very central theme in the book. What does it mean for a leader to ‘look in the mirror’? According to the author this means:

  • taking responsibility;
  • not blaming others;
  • setting high standards;
  • leading by example.

I do fully agree with this. A good leader assumes full responsibility; he does not blame others for mistakes. Setting high standards and leading by example is also truly key. In addition to this I believe that a good leader is someone who says “we” and not “I”.

How many of us have worked for leaders who say “I” when it should be “we”? I have had such leaders in the past and been very frustrated by this.

Level 5 leaders are not charismatic, media types. Chances are you’ve never heard of them. They are humble, self-effacing and more concerned about the prosperity of the company than their individual success.

I can recommend you to read the book if you have not already done so.


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Foto på Dag Andersson