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Lockheed Martin: Changing the Culture of Leadership

When it comes to leadership, no shortage of organizations talk a good game. But too often many organizations never get past the platitudes

[Corrected to show that the number of employees is 140,000]

Lockheed Martin, an alumni of recent top 20 Best Companies for Leadership lists and among the top 5% in the current list, has managed to move beyond talking and has created traction with a genuine culture-changing approach to leadership. Although the massive defense contractor's shift in how it selects, assesses, and develops leaders—and how those leaders set objectives—is still very much a work in progress, its efforts to rethink leadership are worth examining by other organizations facing similar challenges.

Marilyn Figlar, Lockheed Martin's (LMT) vice-president for talent and organizational capability, describes the company's Full Spectrum Leadership initiative as a "major leadership culture change" something akin to "eating a big elephant—you have to take it one bite at a time." Yet in just four years, that cultural shift has taken root in the 140,000-employee company, and begun to transform what had been a somewhat traditional, command-and-control aerospace and defense culture into one that favors relationships, accountability, and integrity.

Aware that such phraseology has become the "description du jour" of seemingly every new HR initiative on the planet, Figlar says that Lockheed Martin has actually begun to see changes in the behavior of its managers and executives—good changes that are having an impact on how the organization goes about its business and gets results.

Imperatives of Leadership

Take accountability: Figlar notes that while Lockheed Martin is in business to deliver results, it's also important how leaders get those results. To that end, leaders are now measured in the context of four other leadership "imperatives", which include how well they energize their teams, their success in developing business relationships (both within and outside the company), how effectively they focus on the future, and their efforts to model personal excellence, integrity, and accountability.

These imperatives have been embedded in how Lockheed Martin selects, develops, and assesses its leaders. In the past, as in many technical or scientific organizations, it was typically the smartest individuals who rose in the leadership ranks. Now, says Figlar, people recognize that intelligence is only part of the equation. Leaders are selected not only on their skills and experience, but also on the behaviors they demonstrate. Most selections are made through panels that determine if the candidate is the best fit for the leadership role. "Changing how we select leaders showed the organization we are serious about who we want to lead in this company," Figlar says.

So what happens when a leader with good results refuses to change his or her approach—when, as is sometimes the case, a high performer behaves badly? Unlike in many organizations that turn a blind eye to such antics, at Lockheed Martin they are quietly counseled, coached, and if necessary, demoted or removed, according to Figlar.

"The most important considerations are that performance for our customers does not suffer and that the individual is treated with respect," she says.

So why has Lockheed Martin been able to affect major change through leadership when so many other organizations struggle or fail? Figlar offers three reasons:

1. The initiative was led by top leadership.

Since its inception, Full Spectrum Leadership has been driven by Lockheed Martin's top leadership, including CEO Bob Stevens. It was Stevens who first introduced the idea, noting the need for a new kind of leader who could get results while energizing and engaging others. It was Stevens who pushed for better development of those leaders, noting they were doing a "disservice" to their leadership if they didn't. And it has been Stevens who has continued to speak out for the initiative, noting that Lockheed Martin needs "'full spectrum' leaders—people who not only are solid on performance but also exhibit strong leadership behaviors."

2. It's framed in the language of the business.

Early on, the decision was made to avoid HR jargon. "We did not want to call this the 'Lockheed Martin Leadership Competency Model,'" Figlar says. "We wanted to use the language of the business, the language Bob uses, the language of leaders."

As Stevens has said, "We need leaders who get results, meet objectives, and put numbers on the board, but at the same time demonstrate the great interpersonal and communication skills that encourage and guide employees, stimulate and advance teamwork, inspire trust and energize others, and represent the company well to a diversity of outside constituencies. Leaders must have both attributes, performance and behavior, not just one or the other."

3. It's fully integrated into the organization.

In addition to integrating Full Spectrum Leadership into the selection, assessment, and development process, Lockheed Martin has taken a number of steps to ensure that the program and its goals continue to be top-of-mind within the organization, including creating a new leadership development center, complete with its own cable channel, and chartering a team of high-potentials and middle managers to determine how to engage front-line leaders.

They've also embedded it in their employee survey, creating an index of key questions on each leadership imperative so they can chart their progress as well as identify those areas that still must be changed. Says Figlar: "We've come a long way. We've received some great feedback, but we are not done. We expect a lot more. We want it to be part of our ethos—a differentiator."

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