How One Company Leads by Greatness - 1st Edition

In celebration of the launch of Lead By Greatness, which will be available in mid-October, I thought it would be of value to share how companies exemplify Lead by Greatness principles, along with  tips for infusing these principles into your own business. Welcome to the first edition.

Rewarding Innovation Tangibly

Andrew M. Thompson, co-founder and CEO of biomedical firm Proteus, illustrates leadership greatness by creating a visible tribute to innovation. According to an interview in the New York Times, Thompson has a shelf with employee "brains" in jars. Each time there is a patent filed or an employee name appears on a patent, they receive a new brain in their jar.

Here is a snippet of the interview that I believe showcases a company that leads by greatness:

You reward innovative and new things in ways that are very obvious and are very visible -- it's the culture of what you talk about, what you celebrate, what you reward, what you make visible. For example, in this company, which is very heavily driven by intellectual property, if you file a patent or have your name on a patent, we give you a little foam brain.

As I write in Lead By Greatness, this is an example of an a heroic culture - where a leader inspires people, measures and mentors them and recognizes them generously for their contributions.

Mr. Thompson discusses how this happens at Proteus in this interview excerpt:

There's no money in it. We don't pay people to file patents because we're an innovative company. That's part of your job. But we recognize it and we make it extremely visible. Everyone who walks in the front door just looks and says wow. That's a very specific and extremely powerful way that we promote and reward innovation.
There's another thing that I think is probably a little less obvious: in the context of being an innovative company, it's really important that you don't penalize failure. In an innovative company, and particularly for a start-up company, you have to take risk. So you have to have a very strong bias to action over analytics, and for learning from mistakes and moving forward.

This is right in line with why leading with respect and dignity is so much more effective than leading by consequences and threats. Here's an explanation from Lead by Greatness:

Employees and team members, like all of us, are wired from birth not to disappoint, and generally they won't. There is no need to threaten them with other con­sequences. People engage with much higher energy when they do so out of the desire to play their part and perform, rather than out of the fear of consequence. If we manage people with dignity and respect instead of fear, we will bring out the best in them.

The bottom line is that respect and recognition go much further than fear and threats to building an innovative company culture.

Want to learn more about leading by greatness? Check out a sample chapter of the book here.

Share this post