Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Today’s headlines are inundated with CEO’s who have misused their leadership position. They’ve been seduced by the power and greed available to them often using their position as self-serving. Unfortunately, that attitude is far from the minority. It is the visionless, myopic, self-centered CEO who has caused a work force where 75% of employees are dissatisfied. Consider a recent study, which showed that during the last 20 years, the average CEO’s compensation has grown from 42 times that of the average production worker to more than 400 times. That translates to an average CEO salary of $10 million a year vs. $25,467 for the average worker. Even worse, many of these same CEO’s reward themselves with obscene salaries and bonuses while their company is losing money.

Profits supersede all other objectives. They are often evaluated by the short-term affect they bring to shareholders. They may have a mission statement, which clearly identifies company values and communicates all the right messages, the question becomes…is management living their life congruent with these principles and values? Are they walking their talk? In order to truly walk your talk as a leader a paradigm shift in our corporate culture needs to be made.

A shift from autocratic self-centered leader…. to servant of the organization. A shift from profits and winning at all costs…. to a concern of creating value, social contribution and human issues. A shift from reaching goals…. to providing an environment where employees are stretching to reach individual potential. A shift from leading by image and control…to leading with authenticity. A shift from creating an environment of fear…to one of trust. A shift from self-interest…. to one of compassion. A shift from emphasizing quality of products and service…to one, which includes quality of relationships.

A true leader is one who is in touch with his inner being. Who understand that leadership begins with self-mastery and self-mastery is a lifetime journey. A leader understands his strengths and weaknesses and is not afraid to acknowledge areas, which may require personal growth. He is self-confident while still being vulnerable. He is perceived as being human! Once this occurs, employees will develop trust and are willing to follow.

Go into any corporation and ask the employees, is this a place where you can do you very best? If the answer is affirmative there is a good chance that the leader of that organization has removed the barriers, which prohibit employees from reaching their potential. They have created an environment of trust and cooperation. Someone who recognizes their role as servant of the corporation is leading them. Show me a company where followers are being taught leadership skills and you will find a CEO who understands the long-term benefit of a values-based leadership approach. Does it seem a paradox that companies headed by CEO’s who emphasize values over profits are successful? Only to the uninformed. At Southwest Airlines customers come second (employees are number one).

CEO’s need to re-assess their role in their organization and reflect how best to serve. To have the courage to face a situation which may expose their weaknesses and learn to modify a behavior for the benefit of the organization. Through self-reflection and action the CEO can let go of his self-serving ego and become more adaptive to the needs of his organization. The idea of values-based leadership is not restricted to the corporation. We are all leaders as parents, teachers, coaches and managers. Are you leading by serving? Have you created a nurturing environment where your followers can be the best they can be. Each of us has unlimited potential, are you striving and thriving to reach that potential? Are you removing barriers for your followers so they can stretch to reach their potential? When you begin to lead by virtue of your being, a world of opportunity suddenly becomes available to you and your followers.

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