Deconstructing Leggett’s DNA: The Way We Lead

The Way We Lead cover image with Icon

Families display certain common traits and behaviors, generation after generation, that have nothing to do with genetics. These non-genetic markers are passed down through shared perceptions, beliefs, and actions, as surely as hazel eyes and curly hair. The same is true for companies.

At Leggett & Platt, we recently set out to revise the competencies in our annual performance review, and accidentally found ourselves deconstructing our corporate DNA. We started the project with 15 competencies – things like strategic thinking, decision making, interpersonal skills, and communication. Instead of simply trying to whack a few that seemed less important, we started with a clean sheet of paper and our company history book. Looking back over 130 years, our leaders displayed certain common qualities, no matter what the business challenge of the era. When we distilled this “Leggett DNA,” we found eight key qualities that drive our collective success. Eureka! These characteristics, expressed as actions, reflect our culture and the way we lead.

A member of the Leggett team:

Does the Right Thing Bar

  • Leads by example, acting with honesty, integrity, and transparency
  • Builds customer confidence, internally and externally, by keeping commitments
  • Actively promotes a positive and respectful work environment
  • Ensures financial, legal, and other required compliance
  • Maintains high safety standards and promotes responsible environmental practices

At Leggett & Platt, “doing the right thing” is more than just a nice idea to engrave on a plaque and hang on the wall. It goes well beyond compliance with laws and rules, showing up in countless decisions we make every day. Like going above and beyond to serve a customer well, taking extra measures to ensure the safety of our people, finding new ways to better preserve our natural resources, and creating a positive workplace environment. That’s how we’ve done business for more than 130 years.

Takes Ownership Bar

  • Exhibits personal responsibility and commitment to the company’s success
  • Takes initiative and contributes ideas
  • Goes above and beyond and seeks new challenges
  • Safeguards the company’s reputation for quality and excellence
  • Uses company resources wisely and is cost-conscious

The success we enjoy today stems from a legacy of individuals who deeply invested in the company’s future. We continue that tradition when we act as though our own reputation is on the line with every product we ship. We don’t wait for someone else to solve problems or pick up the slack. We advance the company’s interests as if they were our own, because they are. This is our company.

Continuously Improves Bar

  • Challenges the status quo, always looking for ways to improve results
  • Embraces formal Continuous Improvement methods, as appropriate
  • Pursues self-development and learning opportunities
  • Seeks out and accepts the constructive feedback of other
  • Exhibits a probing mind and fights complacency

Harry Cornell, who led the company for more than 40 years, had a favorite saying: “Success is founded on a constant state of discontentment interrupted by brief periods of satisfaction on the completion of a job particularly well done.” That mindset still runs strong at Leggett – we are relentless about finding a better way to do it. That means we question everything. And we pursue personal growth, not just process improvement. 

Gets Things Done Bar

  • Sets and accomplishes meaningful goals
  • Focuses effort on highest value work
  • Acts with a sense of urgency
  • Finds creative ways to surmount barriers
  • Has strong job knowledge and skills relevant for position

With roots in rural Missouri, an area rich in agriculture and trade, it’s no surprise that our people have always been known for their strong work ethic. Throughout our history, Leggett has met success through people who were driven to achieve, worked hard, and fought through adversity. It’s true today, too, in our operations around the world. We get the job done through stamina, creativity, common sense, and sheer determination.  

Works Well With Others Bar

  • Demonstrates friendliness, authenticity, and concern
  • Treats people with respect, building trusting relationships across the business
  • Gives credit to others and acts without ego
  • Shares information appropriately
  • Communicates well – written, verbal, non-verbal, listening

Our company was founded on a very fortunate partnership, and we have valued shared effort ever since. We believe our collective strength will always be greater than our individual strengths. That’s why we strive to work collaboratively and build a culture of teamwork. The quality of our daily interactions with each other impacts individual job enjoyment and drives our collective success.

Excercises Sound Judgment Bar

  • Makes thoughtful decisions in a timely fashion
  • Simplifies complex issues and finds the root of a problem
  • Creates realistic and practical solutions
  • Seeks input from others and considers how decisions will affect various stakeholders
  • Balances short- and long-term goals, allowing short-term trade-offs for long-term returns

In a single day across Leggett & Platt’s global operations, we make thousands of decisions. Some have larger impact than others, but all are important. We won’t always get it right, but the ability to analyze issues, find root problems, weigh alternatives, and act decisively has a measurable impact on our results. From the machine operator to the CEO, the quality of our decisions matters every day.

Anticipates and Adapts Bar

  • Deals effectively with adversity and focuses on solutions rather than problems
  • Adjusts quickly to changing circumstances or priorities
  • Is open to new ideas and readily adapts to change
  • Monitors external issues and market trends, anticipating potential business impact

We’ve faced new challenges in every era of our company’s past, but the world is changing at a faster pace today than at any other time in history. To compete well in our industries, we must work with our heads up, constantly scanning the landscape for new threats and opportunities. “The way we’ve always done it” won’t be the way we do it tomorrow. Companies and individuals with vision, agility, and imagination will lead the future. 

Manages for Performance Bar

  • Hires and promotes “A” players
  • Sets clear expectations and gives candid and timely performance feedback
  • Aligns team’s goals with functional or operational strategy
  • Coaches and mentors employees to foster professional development
  • Redeploys or terminates chronic underperformers

Our business thrives on the efforts of thousands of dedicated people. Nowhere is the concept of “sustainability” more critical than in how we manage this most important resource. Our company is a mosaic of unique talents and personalities and insights. Those managers who cultivate the potential of each individual lead engaged teams and ensure the ongoing vitality of the company.  

While certain aspects of our company culture will change over time, these eight qualities represent the fundamental DNA of our corporate identity. These qualities enabled us to lead through many challenging eras, and they remain just as relevant today.

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