In Stephen Covey’s article, “New Wine, Old Bottles,” he discusses the idea of servant leadership. This type of leadership requires a leader to be forward thinking, trusting, and to have humility. Many old school authoritarian leaders find themselves in nicely packaged training sessions on the latest trends of leadership, only to return to their office with the same principals they had before. Using buzz words is great, but actually implementing changes that create mutual respect amongst executives and their employees is the key to effective leadership.
In the brief Wall Street Journal article, “Good Leadership Requires Executives To Put Themselves Last,” The example of Michael Leven, chairman and CEO of US Franchise Systems, is used to illustrate leaders who put integrity and the good of the company ahead of personal gains. Leven is a leader who does the right thing and is prepared to leave the company if doing the right thing does not align with top management’s goals. While serving as President of Days Inn of America, Leven noticed some shady financial practices, such as a shrinking cash flow and debt from franchisees not being paid, so he quit. Actually, he not only quit, but he wrote a letter to his bosses outlining his suspiscions of owners siphoning funds from the Days Inn account. Thus, not only did Leven pull himself out of this bad situation, he tried to do something about it. Leven did the right thing even though it came with a high cost (that he was very much aware of).
Unfortunately, most of us will never work for companies where this type of leadership exists at the top though there may be some mid to lower level management that put the company first. One has to wonder how long they can last in an environment where the people above them only care about their bonus for the year?