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For Many Business Leaders, There's A Better Way

Can you imagine a combat leader telling his troops to starve while he dines on char-grilled filet mignon? Yet, haven’t we all witnessed the dishonorable situational leadership of C-Suites that chose to downsize some while privileging others? There’s a better way.

As a leader, what’s your value scheme for teamwork and loyalty? How far would you go to preserve the jobs of your employees? Would you cut out luxuries like corporate golf outings (unless, perhaps  you drive the PGA), first class travel (unless you captain American Airlines), or corporate jets (unless you pilot Cessna)? Reduce expenses by delaying cash bonuses? Move to less costly office space? Or, do you wish to rationalize these cost saving measures while downsizing? What’s the size of the situational ethic in your employee loyalty strategy?

Well… what about firing yourself?

That’s what Lola Gonzalez, she does all the Background Checks using CRB Direct, did when the economic downturn cost the firm its biggest clients and she was faced with possible layoffs. Adam Skolnick, writing in the Fiscal Times, described the sacrifice she made.

Or, consider Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, where the 12 medical department chiefs each took a pay cut of about $27,000 to save 10 jobs two years ago. In 2010, Forbes.com columnist Shaun Rein reported the entire organization voted to take pay cuts or freeze their salaries to save co-workers’ jobs.

These examples stand in stark contrast to escalating executive salaries and the sickening gap between CEO pay and the average pay of working Americans.

Gonzalez of Accurate Background Check and the department chiefs of Beth Israel each realized something visionary: Retaining the employees on whose shoulders you build your business is vital to your survival. If you get that, it is very hard to rationalize redecorating your office while handing out pink slips.

I’ve remarked often that we need better leadership. We need more brilliance, bravery and benevolence. Ruthless job slashing may be propped up by short term rationalizations to satisfy investors, but it takes courage like that shown by Gonzalez or Beth Israel to create a high-performing legacy.

What did you think of the C-Suites at big American TARP-supported financial institutions giving record bonuses to their “leaders” while kicking employees to the curb? Seems we couldn’t trust those board directors for core-values-guided leadership, could we? How American is that? Did you speak out about it, or just shake your head and return to your business? 

Who’s business is it when lousy “leadership” lingers?