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Helping a typical person achieve greatness

Dan Purves




The typical person is capable of greatness given the right opportunity and it is the executives’ job to create the environment where this can happen, said Don Luke, former chief executive of Sunsuper and chair of QIC.

“As leaders, our role, surely, is about creating the right opportunities. It is about having a culture not just where people are accepted, but are celebrated, developed and they flourish; where they can do excellent things on behalf of their organisation and members,” Luke told delegates at the Fund Executive Association Ltd (FEAL) annual conference in an address on how trust can be built through culture.

He added he had thought a lot about power and authority and had come to the conclusion there were two types. One was coercive power – to dominate others and have them follow and think alike. The second power was one of persuasion and example, which allowed the leader to open up the situation and look at more alternatives.

“If there is a great dream, then unless those who espouse this great dream elicit trust, it will come to naught. And how can they elicit trust? Their values need to be trusted. People need to have confidence in their values,” Luke said.

“People respond to leaders who are proven and trusted as servant leaders. They are the sort of leader who want to make sure others highest priority needs are being met rather than their own.”

He added if excellence was the goal, and the leadership were patient, persevere, have the energy and stick with it, the goal was almost a given.

“Substandard performance is death to the whole goal of excellence. So what does it mean where there is substandard performance [with a person]? You sit down together in a vulnerable way and you talk about it, because all of us have our own strengths and weaknesses.”

This means executives need a tolerance for reality, alongside a belief that a typical person is capable of greatness given the right opportunity.

“Our role is [to] develop them and it’s more than that, it is to give people a leap of imagination so they can do things they never dreamed possible.

“How do we know we are a servant leader? Do we diminish people or do we enrich people’s lives?”