Charlie Kim is the CEO of a company called Next Jump in New York City, a Tech Company. He makes a point that if you had hard times in your family, would you ever consider laying off one of your children? We would never do it, then why do we consider laying off people inside our organization?
Charlie implemented a policy of lifetime employment, if you get a job at Next Jump, you can never get fired for performance issues, in fact, if you have issues, they will coach you, and they will give you all support just like what we would do with one of our children who happens to come home with a C grade from School. In most of the organizations, it is completely opposite, the reason many people have a total hatred, a sort of anger at some of the banking CEOs with their disproportionate salaries, it’s not the number, it’s that they have violated the very definition of leadership, they have violated the deep seeded social contract, we know that they allow their people to be sacrificed so they could protect their own interest, or worse, they sacrifice their people to protect their own interest.
This is what so offends us, not the numbers. Would anybody be offended if we gave a hundred and fifty million dollars to Gandhi? How about a two hundred and fifty million dollars to Mother Teresa. Do you have any issue with that, Not at all!
Great leaders would never sacrifice their people to save the numbers, they would sooner sacrifice the numbers to save their people.
Bob Chapman owns a large manufacturing company in the Midwest called “Berry-Wehmiller”. In 2008, it was a very hard hit by recession and they lost 30% of their orders overnight. Now for this large manufacturing company, this is a big deal and they would no longer afford for their labour pool. They needed to save 10 million dollars, so like other companies today, the board got together and discussed for layoffs but Bob refused.
Bob doesn’t believe in headcounts, Bob believes in heart counts, and it’s much more difficult to simply reduce the heart count, and so they came up with a program, where every employee from Secretary to CEO was required to take four weeks of unpaid vacation, they could take this anytime they wanted and they did not have to take it consequently, but it was Bob who announced the program, that mattered so much. He said, “It is better that we all should suffer a little, so that any of us should have to suffer a lot, and the morale went up. They saved 20 million dollars and most importantly as would be expected when the people feel safe and protected by the leader and the organization, the natural reaction is to trust and co-operate, and quite spontaneously nobody expected, people started trading with each other. Those who would afford it more would trade with those who could afford it less. People would take five weeks so that somebody else only had to take three.
Leadership is a choice, it is not a rank, we know many people at the top levels of organizations who are absolutely not leaders, they are authorities and we do what they say because they have authority over us. But we may not follow them. We also know many people who are at the bottom of organizations who have no authority but they are absolute leaders, and this is because they have chosen to look after the person to the left and right of them. This is what a leader is….
I heard a story of Marines, who were out in a theatre and as the Marine custom, the officer ate last and he let his men eat first, and when they were done, there was no food left for him. And they went back out in the field, his men brought him some of their food so that he may eat, because that’s what happens.
We call them leaders because they go first, we call them leaders because they take the risk before anybody else does. We call them leaders because they will choose to sacrifice for their people so that they are safe and protected and so their people may gain and when we do this - the natural response is that our people will sacrifice for us. They would give us their blood, sweat and tears to see that their leader’s vision comes to life and when we ask them why you would do that. Why would you give your blood, sweat and tears for that person? – They will all say the same thing – “Because they would have done it for me”. And isn’t that the organization we would all like to work in?