There are several tactics you can employ if you wish to bolster your business’s performance and become a market leader by your definition – starting with a robust strategic plan. However, to appropriately execute this plan, your business requires a team with the leadership capabilities to translate vision into reality. If your business is not achieving pre-determined goals, you may be surprised to learn that this may be due to the gap between the skills that are critical for your business to reach these levels of performance, and the skills you thought were important (or the skills that are currently available).
An audacious organisation: the Pink Panthers
History grants us incredible examples of how critical capabilities are matched appropriately to a desired outcome. One such example is a case study of the Pink Panthers, who are are a jewel thief network responsible for robberies of an international grand scale. They have been coined one of the most audacious examples of organised crime in history.
Their projects of stealing gold and diamonds, collectively valued at almost £373m, have earned them a reputation for being glamorous, with some criminologists going as far as labelling their work ‘artistry’. Robberies have taken place on our own doorstep. with one particular heist occurring in 2003 on New Bond Street, in London, at Graff – a boutique offering exceptional jewels. Graff’s clients include Oprah Winfrey and Victoria Beckham, and even this glamorous boutique fell victim to the Pink Panthers, being stripped of 47 pieces of diamond jewellery. According to the Daily Mail, the gang received their nickname after this incident, when police conducted a raid of an implicated apartment and uncovered a diamond in a pot of beauty cream, similar to the plot of one of the Pink Panther movies about an inept French detective, played by English actor Peter Sellers.
With roughly 800 core members and 341 armed robberies to their name, what makes the Pink Panther gang so ‘successful’?
The skill of a Panther
As an organisation, the Pink Panthers bolstered their own performance during the years, with more defying thefts that followed each success. They had a strategic plan, but most importantly, a leadership complement to execute their plans.
One can only imagine the skills and behaviours the Pink Panthers possess. You may think these ‘gangsters’ would be hardened criminals, who show low levels of trust and loyalty toward others. Their meticulous planning and swift and efficient moves, alongside their co-ordinated, calm and focused heists, inspired the widely accepted theory that they were a combination of former members of the military from Yugoslavia and Serbian special forces, and predominantly male. This narrative made sense, but the only problem with it, is that it was incorrect.
Even though popular media would still attribute the skill and behaviour of these super-criminals as ex-special forces, the recent efforts of police and journalists have revealed a surprising truth. The Panthers are a collection of middle-class individuals, former athletes and small-time criminals. One ‘gangster’ was a member of Serbia’s National Youth Basketball team, and another had been to law school. Interestingly, the Pink Panthers were a combination of men and women.
The skills and behaviours that enabled them to gain momentum in their performance as an organised crime network was unwavering trust and loyalty toward each other; each member had little fear of being apprehended and going to jail, as they trusted their peers to orchestrate an escape – just like the escape of Serbian Dragan Mikić, who was rescued by his peers in 2005.
They possess an instinct for action, moving with fervour – most likely owed to their upbringing during Yugoslavia’s communist regime, followed by the free-for-all nightmare war which followed.
These criminals are fearless, a thought process of having nothing to lose, nurtured during their tumultuous young lives. When they first embarked on criminal activity around smuggling, they did so not for money, but for survival.
A large proportion of these members built incredibly strong bonds, friendships and interpersonal alliances, having been friends that grew up together, and later in life, planning their criminal activities by living together. Unlike typical gangs, the Panthers see themselves as possessing a “moral high ground” (according to an interview conducted by The Guardian).
Contrary to established crime syndicates with a hierarchal structure, each sub-group of the Pink Panthers was organised as a flat structure, with each participant playing a critical role in the interconnected group. If one person failed their duty, the entire organisation collapsed. Given the organised structure of the gang, vulnerability and faith being shown toward each other was critical.
If you were surprised by the skills and behaviours required for the success of the Pink Panther network, you wouldn’t be alone. Even the police, professionals trained to profile criminals, got it wrong.
Relying purely on your own expertise may prove insufficient in understanding what skills and behaviours your business requires. Moreover, following ‘best practice’ or even what has historically worked in the past, would have been a poor recipe for success for the Panthers. After all, if the Pink Panther movement was designed to attract the skills its leaders thought it needed, it’s almost guaranteed they would have not achieved the same momentum as an organised crime unit, boasting some of the most theatrical heists in history.
Although we don’t profess to glamorise organised crime, as business psychologists, we can observe and learn from the intricacies of leadership behaviour in all types of contexts. If anything, the Pink Panthers have taught us that improving performance in an organised group of people rests on the capability of your leadership team – matched to the unique need of that context.
Improving business performance
It’s true that in some cases, effective leaders can emerge with no pre-identification or planned development. However, we don’t think leadership in the business context is something that should be left to chance.
Simplifying your leadership needs to a generalised set of skills and behaviours assumes there is either ‘one best way’ of leading or a ‘profile’ of a leader. Simply Google ‘profile of a criminal’ and almost every skill and behaviour listed by the search engine conflicts with the demonstrated skill and behaviour of a Panther. A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is a dangerous mistake to make when putting together your leadership team.
We encourage you to self-reflect and think carefully about the skills you think your business needs to catapult it forward. Ask yourself:
- Are you meeting your strategic goals?
- Is your business performing effectively?
- Do you think your business has the leadership capabilities required to become a market leader?
If you answered no to any one of these questions, you may need to go back to the drawing board.
We can help.
At Blackmore Four, we have developed our signature approach to diagnosing mission-critical skills and behaviours required by the leaders in your business. Thereafter, we assess what skills and behaviours your leaders possess. In our experience, there are almost always gaps. However, knowing what those gaps are can be tremendously empowering. Through various interventions, these gaps can be closed, and the ideal climate is created to allow business performance to improve substantially.
Blackmore Four are an independent Essex-based consulting company, offering specialist advice and tailored solutions to businesses looking to improve business performance. Our approach is based on a deep understanding of human behaviour at work and an ability to identify and address the specific leadership and organisational development needs of your business.
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