Posted by: A.R. Cherian | November 5, 2009

Good leaders place themselves last

In connection to our in-class discussion on leadership, I read an article that talked about how a former Days Inn hotel chain executive who left the chain over disagreements with the owners as to what was in the best interest of the company. The article was titled “Good Leadership Requires Executives To Put Themselves Last”  from page B1 of the April 20, 2004 Wall Street Journal.

The owners were later convicted of fraud and one sentenced to an 8-year prison term. The former executive says he isn’t angry about how things turned out. “I did what I had to do even though it cost me a significant amount of money,” he says. He even fought a bought of depression because of it.

Leaders should understand that sometimes doing what is right means taking a pay-cut or losing your power and position. It involves making a decision that is higher than your personal interests. This concept is shown in the Bible in Mark 10:35-45 where Jesus’ disciples James and John had approached him earlier and asked him if they could become in effect, the second and third men, in what they perceived to be his future earthly kingdom. Jesus called his disciples together and said  “you know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them.  But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave  to all.”

Being a good servant leader does not mean placing yourself last all the time, but it does mean that you consider yourself in no special esteem. There is often a greater good to be done and it may not always serve your personal interests. I think this is harder to do than just writing about it. I have never had to make such tough decisions (yet), but if I have to, it’s good to know that things will turn out all right and a greater good will have been accomplished.

Bottom Line: Doing the right thing in business does not always lead to success or riches as this case showed. You may go through hell at first but over time, doing the right thing will always make you better off.

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