Business, if not world leadership, is at a precipice. Will the old guard continue to dominate in their greedy, selfish, unethical manner? Or, will employee and customers alike become even more restless, disengaged and maybe revolutionary in thought or action, and demand a wholesale leadership change?
A new species of leaders is arising. In nature, geneticists call this sympatric speciation. The professional DNA of these leaders is unique. It’s not about profit, promotion or political gain. It’s about the need, and selfless service to do the right thing. Protect the planet. Feed the hungry. Heal the sick. Give jobs to the unemployed. Pay fairly. Help those in trouble. Coach. Lift up, not leave behind. Share the wealth, don’t hoard it.
Four People Who Define the New Species of Leaders
Dan Price raised the pay to $70,000 minimum per employee at his 120 person company called Gravity Payments. Dan had always prided himself on treating people well. One day a few years ago, an employee told him, “You are ripping me off.” After hearing the person out and doing some soul searching, Dan cut his salary and raised the pay of employees. He is now a crusader against income inequality. Yahoo corporate executive Tammi Kroll, quit her high paying job to work at Gravity because she said, “I spent many years chasing the money. Now I am look for something meaningful and fun.” Since Price implemented his plan sales growth and profits doubled. His investment in people is paying off.
Arthur T. Demoulas is the beloved CEO of Market Basket, a grocery store chain of 70 locations and 25,000 employees in the NE United States. He was ousted as the organization’s leader a few years ago, by other members of his family who had more stock, prompting all of the employees to protest and go on strike even though they had no union. Other owners wanted to close some stores, raise prices, reduce pay and cut benefits to increase profitability. (Sound familiar?) Mr. Demoulas paid above industry average, as well as established a retirement fund that added 15% of annual pay each year for employees. He remembers employees’ names and also their sick relatives, and offers higher education stipends. After an eight month battle, he purchased 50.5% of the stock to regain control and save the company. Today, it is thriving and growing.
Elizabeth Holmes at 31 is founder and CEO of Theranos, which produces a quicker, safer and less expensive blood testing technology. She is also the youngest self-made billionaire to make Forbes list. When she was younger she wrote a letter to her father that had this line, “What I really want out of life is to discover something new, something that mankind didn’t know was possible to do.” She has a strong will and, for example, taught herself Mandarin Chinese as a sophomore in college. Employees say they can’t remember her ever raising her voice. While she may be a genius like Steve Jobs, she has a heart for others and making a positive difference. She is not afraid to take on existing protocols. Her products are gaining increasing scrutiny in a highly regulated field. Yet, she continues in her soft spoken and passionate manner, steadily moving forward to change accepted medical practice.
Karl-Johan Persson, is the 37 year old CEO of worldwide clothing company H&M. His company is gearing their brands to looking healthy, not trendy or skinny. They recently released a new plus-sized swimsuit line. He insists that he will allow only “sound and healthy” models. Persson’s goals are quality in the clothing line, safety, and financial stability for all employees. He is changing his industry with cheaper quality fashion while having an ethical conscience of its impact on customers, employees, the community and the world.
Contrast the above, for example, with Martin Shkreli, entrepreneur, and pharmaceutical executive who drastically raised the price of a drug called Daraprim from $13.50 to $750. (It is used to treat a disease fatal to H.I.V. patients.) His antics caused a firestorm. He has been arrested but released and is battling Congress. Leaders like him focus only on bottom-lines, stock markets, or quarterly reports. They are aloof and elitist in their views of other people.
This new species of leaders calibrate their behavior by noble values that are in sharp contrast to the status quo. Their personal DNA is measured by their genuine caring for others (employees, the community and customers alike) quality of service, and integrity to contribute to making the world a better place. If you are an employee, voice your opinion. If you are a leader, embrace the change or resign.