All organizations want to be successful. They are no different from individuals in the sense that they both desire and need a guiding meaning to keep them on the path to success. However simply put, many organizations are not that successful and are unaware of their existential pursuits. These problems are compounded by the fact that many of their employees are not happy or engaged at work. These are significant challenges that all organizations will face throughout their operations in some form. They are also issues that can only be effectively addressed by a concerted actions from the CEO and top management. With this in mind, CEO of WD-40 Garry Ridge spoke at The HR Congress 2017 about how to help people win at work by implementing tribal leadership, and why it is a crucial element in the development of a successful organization.
What is tribal leadership, and how does it influence a group?
Ridge argues that many CEOs are “soul-sucking”, as they are either consciously or unconsciously incapable of being the leader that their organization or employees need. He suggests that the CEO’s primary job should be to help employees find meaning at work and beyond. Leaders must be open and empathetic, they must also be servants, listening to all employees on the issues that concern them and the direction of the company. A tribal leader is therefore really just a guide of equals – a sherpa – who facilitates the construction of a team with unique and talented individuals. The leader must serve and listen before any guiding can occur. While a simplistic idea in theory, it’s much more difficult to do in practice given the legacy of command-and-control management practices. Furthermore, some people are not natural leaders and should simply not have leadership responsibility. Their unique skills can be best used in other parts of the business. It is here where tribal leadership shows its value – helping people to win by nurturing meaning and giving the team a sense of authenticity.
The case for WD-40’s tribal model
In the case of WD-40, following the principles that bind the team to a ethical standard is the main feature of tribal inclusion. WD-40’s purpose is clearly defined in writing and practice, not only to stakeholders, but to all employees and customers. Ridge is proud to explain that they are in the business of creating memories and solving problems, not simply delivering profits. Along with a set of internal work principles for action and responsibility, WD-40 has a simple code that provides a clear vision of what the company expects from its employees and each other. Such is the depth that this tribal mantra has been embedded, that the attributes defined by the group are now a pre-requisite for any new hires. Individuals who do not fit within the team are simply not going to be viable employees. Once established, this model further enables the kind of leadership practices Ridge promotes, eventually feeding back into a self-contained, bounded system that is better equipped to navigate complex business environments.
If you want to hear more from Garry Ridge, you can catch him presenting at the CHRO Virtual Summit Reloaded on September 18.
Watch the highlight video below to learn more about this topic! [17 minutes]
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