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Leaders - we help you to stand out and lead from within your organisation


All leaders, no matter where they are in their organisation’s hierarchy, have to lead from within.   Indeed, leaders stand out when they are able to consistently respond to the call to lead from within - lead from within their section, their division, their organisation, their community … our world.   Not just once, but over and over again.  And they can do this more easily when they are clear about who they really are. 

Ten years ago Jim Collins investigated the question, ‘What makes a good company a great company?’   To qualify as ‘great’ a company had to deliver at least three times the average stock market return, and repeat this result every year for at least fifteen years.   He and his team of researchers spent five years on the project and published the results in his book ‘Good to Great’ in 2001.   His team considered all of the companies listed by Forbes 500 during the period 1965 – 1999.  Of the nearly 1500 they examined, only eleven made the grade.  Although the minimum for making the grade was three times the average stock market return for each of the fifteen years, the average for the great companies was a staggering 6.9 times every year. 

To make sense of his data Collins matched each company with a similar ‘good’ company and then looked for differences.   In every ‘great’ company a new CEO had been appointed between three to five years before the take off point.  No surprise in that, but the next piece of information surprised him.   In every case the CEO displayed two characteristics - great humility and fierce resolve.   Humility meant appreciating the contributions others made and not pushing their own barrow.   Fierce resolve meant a desire to always hear the truth no matter how brutal it could be, in addition to a determination to do the right thing by the company.  The likelihood of this combination happening by chance in every one of the executives was 1 in 150,000,000. 

Now let me ask you a question.   Of the eleven CEOs who started their companies’ spectacular success have a guess as to the number who were internal appointments?  

None, one, two, three … ? 

Take a bow if you said ten.   The fact that ten out of eleven were internal appointees is highly significant for a number of reasons.   First it seems counter-intuitive.  Most people think that if you want to make major changes to an organisation the most effective way is to appoint a leader from outside the organisation.  Collins’ research is asking us to think again.  It is true that external appointments can bring change, but the change is usually only short lived.  Internal changes are more likely to generate sustained change but it depends on what type of leader is choosen.  The leader has to show a combination of fierce resolve and great humility.  

The second reason that the “Good to Great” companies were likely to have a high proportion of internally appointed CEO’s can best be explained by the FIBS ROCK model which was developed by Leadership Australia.  Collins (and others) have shown that all great organisations are based on what we call ROCK behaviours.  It may seem odd but sometimes it’s easier to understand a set of behaviours by looking at their opposites, so we will begin with FIBS. 

FIBS leaders, Flatter those deemed important; Inflate their own contributions; Break commitments given to people deemed unimportant and find Scapegoats when things go wrong.   FIBS behaviours generate distrust.   FIBS people climb comfortably in organisations dominated by pyramidal leaders and they flourish when those leaders encourage “good news only” cultures.

ROCK leaders show Respect to everyone and do not flatter to gain influence; take Ownership of issues instead of scape-goating others; Credit other people for their contributions instead of inflating their own contributions and Keep their commitments instead of breaking them.   ROCK behaviours generate trust.


It is clear that the CEO’s of the eleven great companies displayed ROCK behaviours to a high degree.   Collins points out that the very first action these leaders took was in his words ‘to put the right people in the right seats on the bus.’   Their first step had the effect of shifting the corporate culture to high ROCK

Through selection of high ROCK executives


It is commonly found that when groups engage in high ROCK behaviour FIBS behaviour is minimised and group functioning is maximised.   This underscores the wisdom of the CEO’s first move.   Once they had assembled a high ROCK group they could begin working as a real team where the focus was on ensuring the long-term success of the organisation.  Their planning would have a high degree of involvement, engagement and ownership, thereby significantly increasing the likelihood of success. 

Note: The model suggests that FIBS and ROCK behaviours are dependent variables, ie high ROCK behaviours are associated with low FIBS behaviours.  Whilst in reality this is mostly true, and makes the model valuable, strictly speaking the FIBS ROCK behaviours are only partly dependent.   In other words it is possible, though uncommon, for a person to be both high ROCK and high FIBS at the same time.  

You can contrast a high ROCK team with that of a group containing a mixture of FIBS & ROCK players.    The ROCK people will be wary of their FIBS colleagues and vice versa.  Plans will always be shaped by personal agendas or suspicion of them. 

Once you understand the FIBS ROCK model you can see how people who have been with the organisation for some time are better placed to identify who is FIBS and who is ROCK.   On the other hand it is much more difficult for a CEO appointed from outside to identify the FIBS manager because FIBS managers are adept at managing upwards and make it a priority to manipulate the CEO.      

To recap, high ROCK leaders create high ROCK cultures where other high ROCK people can flourish.   The clarity of the high ROCK leader also provides clarity to the answer of the first of our five leadership questions.  Who are you as a leader?

So who are you as a leader?  Where do you sit on the FIBS ROCK continuum?   How can you be sure you are where you say you are and that you are not deceiving yourself?   Do you have a colleague who could give you an independent assessment? 

Visit our Contact Us page if you would you like to learn more about how Leadership Australia could assess where you are and/or where your organisation sits on the FIBS/ROCK spectrum.