Tensions had been high for months, ever since Delphi North America declared bankruptcy.

The future of the Delphi Automotive Brake Assembly plant in Dayton, Ohio, was uncertain.

Until that Friday.

The Dayton plant, with its 1,500 employees, would close by June 2008. Everyone from the plant manager to the salaried employees to the hourly production workers would lose their jobs, their livelihoods.

"People were pretty surprised. Nobody saw it coming," said Mary Miller, the plant's HR manager. "People panicked. Productivity dropped."

The job security, the plan for the future each had envisioned, had vanished. Morale was, as expected, at rock bottom. Yet the plant had to continue to operate at full volume for another two years, despite having a disenfranchised workforce.

It was then that plant manager Tom Green woke up at 3 a.m. in a cold sweat. To keep employees engaged, to keep the plant meeting targets, he decided the only route forward was through servant leadership -- putting the people first. He knew that until leadership took care of every individual, those individuals would likely have no reason to take care of the needs of the business.

See Also: Lean Manufacturing Leadership Best Practices

"We just came to the conclusion this was the only way we were going to survive and get through this thing," Green said.