#14 Upside down leadership

Imagine a CEO of a major worldwide company coming to speak at a conference and when a subordinate arrived at the conference centre room they were sharing with him.. (yes, he did not demand his own room) he was fast asleep.. in the smallest bed in the room. He hadn’t taken the large kingsize bed that was available. Imagine that same CEO had gotten up early at another international event, to polish all of the East Asian co-workers shoes in the morning that were left customarily outside their rooms. It was his way of showing honour to them. 

It seems a bit far fetched. Until I reveal I know who this is and am very familiar with this company and I know that it is not made up but true. 250,000 staff and volunteers in it’s 60 some year history. That was what it’s founder was like. 

My 14th lesson for you in my <30-30 series: 30 life lessons in the last 30 years> is that the best kind of leader is one who serves. 

Recently one of my favourite “spots” in Newcastle, the Sage, had a weekend exhibition  held by the BBC entitled “Free Thinking.” I was really gutted when I couldn’t attend more of the discussions they had that weekend (I found out about it only by being there for a gig the wonderful Civil Wars had on there, a bit too late in the game to be able to attend anything else). In the atrium they had giant boards set up with post it notes and three provocative questions for people to write in their thoughts and stick below one of the questions. One of the questions was “What do you look for in a leader.” It had many very good comments under it but I found it intriguing that one of the most common answers was “compassion.” 

People want a compassionate leader and I am proposing the best kind of leaders are willing to serve those under them. It is radical and life changing. How could that change a culture? An organization? A company? A country? A family? A marriage? What if the way you led.. was by serving those around you compassionately. 




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