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Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller and Truly Human Leadership

Bob Chapman and Truly Human Leadership | IE Business School

Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller and his team joined IE Center for Corporate Learning Innovation in a conversation with several CEOs about the culture of Truly Human Leadership.

Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller and his team joined IE Center for Corporate Learning Innovation in a conversation with several CEOs and IE University alumni to discuss the culture of Truly Human Leadership.

Bob Chapman and Nicky van Dam | IE Business School

The event benefited from a deep collaboration with MRC International training, which coordinated the overall visit to Spain of the Barry-Wehmiller team.

With Nick Van Dam, IE’s Chief Learning Officer, Human Resource executives and CEOs from Abante, AMEF, Atkearney, Barceló Hotel Group, Compass, Enagas, Renta 4, Marykay Cosmetics, Deloitte, Decide Solutions, Amadeus, DLA Piper Solutions, Masmovil, Estafeta Mexico together with a select group of professors, alumni and Chapman’s team in attendance, the world-renowned leadership guru discussed the importance of business as a powerful source for good.

“The number one source of happiness in the world is a good job doing meaningful work with people you enjoy. Hence, you could actually go to work in a company and make the world a better place,” said Chapman.

Chapman’s philosophy of leadership revolves around three main points: leaders should treat their employees like family, the company’s biggest responsibility is the people, and recognition and celebration are essential.

“We as leaders have an obligation as stewards of the lives entrusted to us to continue to allow that life to be everything they were meant to be.”

“Stop saying the company is like a family, it has to be one. We as leaders have an obligation as stewards of the lives entrusted to us to continue to allow that life to be everything they were meant to be,” said Chapman.

Chapman described the current business world as suffering “an epidemic of anguish and leadership malpractice,” pointing to the 120,000 people in America who have work-related stress and 88% of all people in America that feel they work for a company that does not care about them.

“We deny the very one thing they want. It’s a sense of happiness to feel valued sharing the gifts and returning home each night,” said Chapman.

Truly Human Leadership | IE Business School

For the CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, the company has the responsibility to send people home each night with a sense of fulfillment, and the feeling of being cared for. It is not only a matter of self-value but also of health.

“The biggest cause of chronic illness is stress. And the biggest cause of stress is work. We’ve learned that the person you report to in work is more important to your health than your family,” explained Chapman.

The difference between leadership and management is often blurred and hard to define. Chapman explained that in management, we define success as money, power, and position. Whilst in leadership, success is being the leader you would like to have, it’s, in fact, identical as parenting. To him, this “father” glasses perspective is what profoundly changed his sense of purpose and meaning in leadership.

“I had never been taught how to care about people but instead how to see people as objects for success. Then one day, I no longer saw them as functions. I saw them as somebody’s precious child, from which I would have a significant impact on their lives,” explained Chapman.

Recognition and celebration go hand in hand in leadership as it’s a way to let people know that the company knows about their work.

“People nowadays feel used for financial gain. Somebody else’s gain. In Barry-Wehmiller we embrace recognition and celebration. We measure success.”

Bob Chapman and IE University alumni | IE Business School

One of the ways they do so is through a system that nominates people for their goodness. Were every month someone nominated by the team gets to drive a sports car. The resolution is done in an open event where the person is recognized with their good attributes and contributions.

“Good people like to see good people recognized. Doing this is the way you and everybody get to know who the people are and how what they do matters,” said the CEO.

The second finding of the company was that when people have fun they perform at exceptional levels. This is why they keep a score of performance between the teams. As for them, the company resembles a sports game and it would be impossible to play a sport without a scoreboard.

To end, one of the insights Chapman shared about his life-long journey with the guests is that listening is the greatest act of leadership and care someone can have.

Bob Chapman’s advice for the students present was to be the leader they would like to have. The person that you would like to have.

"The way we lead has a profound impact on the way people live. Empathetic listening is a fundamental course that everybody should take. It turns out when you care for somebody, you go over to listen to them simply to show that they matter."
Bob Chapman
CEO of Barry-Wehmiller