Leadership as participation

Phil Dorado highlights a little anedote from Richard Branson’s autobiography:

“I…insist that we continually ask our staff for any suggestions they might have, and I try my hand at their jobs. When I tried pushing a trolley down the aisle of a jumbo I found I crashed into everyone. When I talked to the crew about this they suggested we introduce a more waitress-style service and keep the trolleys to a minimum. As it turned out, by getting rid of trolleys altogether in Upper Class, we were able to use up some of the aisle space to provide the longest and largest seats in the air.”

I think this is a great example of leadership being about being willing to learn, rather than just trying to teach. And leading by making yourself part of the process, not merely supervising it.

2 thoughts on “Leadership as participation

  1. Earl Mardle

    Kaizen at work.

    Except that Branson himself should not have had to do it before the problem was fixed, the staff should have had the power to make (or at least propose)the changes, and they should have been taken seriously.

    Incidentally, on my trip to NZ a few weeks ago, I noticed that Air NZ had started cutting back on trolleys and using a waiter service more.

    Maybe the meme is spreading.

    BTW, I also went to a cafe at Orewa called Kaizen, just because of its name.

    But the staff had no real idea what it was about beyond “doing our best to serve the customer every time”.

    Nice thought, good practise, not Kaizen.

  2. Paul Goodison

    I once went on a course about Kaizen by the ‘best practice club’ but lead by a company called (I think) Dalton engineering. The couple that presented were a shop floor worker and a PA. Brilliant and inspirational. When you listened to them though it was astounding how committed the “leadership” were to the whole concept. I’ve never quite seen anything even vaguely similar anywhere else or been able to convince others to adopt such an approach…


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