Finance Industry - Leadership Development

Published on 15 Mar 2016


The commercial property bust of the 1990s sent shock waves through many industries and, in particular, the finance industry. One of its victims is the focus of this case study. The following case study outlines the interventions taken by one of Australia's oldest finance companies to "turn around" its worst financial result in history. The measures taken by this organization, which pulled itself back from the brink of financial disaster and is today recording record profits, are presented.

This case study will particularly focus on the behavioral interventions taken to renew this organization's culture, especially the use of the Life Styles Inventory™ (LSI) in leadership development.


A business re-engineering program was adopted to turn around the crisis. This program focused predominantly on structural and system re-engineering, resulting in large staff cuts and coinciding with the divestment of overseas assets.

Once the organization was stabilized and again started earning a profit, the leadership group looked to organization renewal.

A "people- and customer-focused" organization was part of a new vision and mission for the organization. Key among the "people" strategies of this new vision was the Leadership Membership initiative. This program remains to the present day as a key driver for building Constructive behaviors within the organization.

The Leadership Membership program commenced with:
1. All 2,200 staff attending a two-day membership workshop that introduced the Essential Membership behaviors:  

  • Be communicative
  • Recognize self and others
  • Act with integrity
  • Show a positive attitude
  • Focus on self-development

 2. All 400 managers attending an additional one-day leadership program, incorporating the LSI 1 and 2. In this program, managers were introduced to the Essential Leadership behaviors:  

  • Build trust
  • Acquire/share wisdom
  • Share the vision
  • Energize
  • Be accountable

Performance Appraisal was also overhauled to make "behaviors" as important as financial performance. Also at this time, measurement of the "people" dimension of the vision was introduced by:  

  • All staff participating in an annual Staff Perspective Survey
  • All managers undertaking individual measurement using the LSI


In 1997, Leadership Membership continued with the following new key strategies:

  • A coaching program (two days) was introduced to improve the Humanistic-Encouraging skills of managers.
  • All staff attended a one-day communication skills session.
  • The Leadership Membership principles were introduced to all new staff during a comprehensive induction program. This program also used the Group Styles Inventory™ (GSI) to introduce the 12 circumplex styles.
  • "Zapp Chats" provided managers and their staff a forum to understand their LSI feedback and to create action plans.
  • An annual LSI survey was implemented for managers.


Key new initiatives in 1998 included:  

  • Zapp Goal Clarity to enhance the Achievement style
  • Team Leader development (three days), which included the six-hour business simulation, Turnaround™
  • Targeted LSI briefing sessions for all managers following the annual LSI survey


A further evolution of the program in 1999 was a road show to all staff revitalizing the vision and reinforcing the culture. The road show was supported by Paul Hanna, noted motivational speaker, to lift self-awareness and individual contribution to the corporate culture.

2000 and Beyond

Key initiatives undertaken or being planned for the future include:

  • Moving Forward and Who Moved the Cheese? workshops to assist staff adjustment to changes following further re-engineering
  • Use of Human Synergistics' Leadership/Impact® for the National Management team
  • Implementation of a comprehensive leadership program for team leaders through senior management  


The 1996 LSI 2 results show a management style characterized by low Constructive behaviors and high Defensive behaviors. In particular, Oppositional, Avoidance, and Conventional styles extended into the high range.

A dramatic improvement is shown in the 1997 LSI 2 results. Management style along all 12 styles were improved upon, in particular, Oppositional and Avoidance. The increase in Humanistic-Encouraging is worthy of note given the focus on coaching skills.

The 1998 LSI 2 results show further improvement in three of the four Constructive styles: Achievement, Self-Actualizing and Affiliative. Of particular note is the improved Achievement scores in response to the Zapp Goal Clarity initiative. The Defensive styles, however, remained at levels similar to the previous year.

The LSI 2 results from 1999 illustrate a decline in the Defensive styles: Oppositional, Competitive, and Perfectionistic. Constructive styles, however, showed no improvement, with Self-Actualizing in a slight decline.


The most significant outcome is the dramatic financial turnaround of this organization. While dramatic structural and system changes were essential to this result, the significant effort to align staff and management behavior with the new vision and mission was also a significant contributor to this success.

Significant measurable outcomes from these activities include: 

  • The organization as a whole uses a more sophisticated, behaviorally-based language.
  • The annual staff satisfaction index has demonstrated consistent improvements.
  • Management behaviors have consistently improved over four years of measurement using the Life Styles Inventory™


This case study demonstrates how organizations can implement programs that produce measurable changes in organizational behavior. To be successful, these interventions must: 

  • Be comprehensive and integrated to include not only management development but comprehensive staff development, induction, and performance appraisal
  • Take a long-term view with consistency of strategy and approach, that is, Leadership Membership
  • Receive commitment and support from senior management
  • Have adequate resourcing 

Diagnostic Tools Life Styles Inventory™ (LSI)

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