Gut Check: Is Your Leadership Award Worthy?

January 19, 2015 Vince Molinaro
Gut Check: Is Your Leadership Award Worthy?This is the time of year when the award shows start dominating TV screens. All these shows recognize the best in music, film and theatre.

Last week we had the People’s Choice Awards and we learned of the Oscar nominations.

As I reviewed the Oscar list, I started thinking to myself: if leadership had its own award show, which leaders would be worthy of a nomination because of their performance in 2014?

Out of curiosity, I reviewed many of my blogs from last year to find the leaders who I believed made a significant impact. As I reviewed them, I got a clear picture of who rose to the leadership challenge, and those who failed. All in all, it was both a fantastic and fascinating year.

And now, here’s my list of nominations of award worthy leaders from 2014.

The Power of Employee Loyalty

Arthur T. Demoulas of Market Basket, an iconic, 71-store chain of New England grocery stores made the headlines in early August. Several hundred workers at family-owned Market Basket walked off their jobs in protest after Demoulas was ousted in a power struggle involving other family members. Thousands more employees attended rallies and protests to demand Arthur T’s return to the helm of the chain.

Why did Demoulas earn such loyalty? He was a fair-minded CEO who insisted his employees be paid 20 to 30 per cent more than industry rates. And he spearheaded a 100-per-cent company-funded profit-sharing retirement program.

The CEO Oscar for greatest Employee Loyalty goes to…
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When other shareholders demanded a change in management, in large part to ready the company to be bought out by a private equity firm, the board took Arthur T. and his executive team out. This prompted the non-unionized employees to walk off the job.

The impasse, which also included a widespread customer boycott, ended with an announcement that Arthur T. had bought out his rival family members for $1.5 billion, a deal that would allow him to resume day-to-day operations of the company. Employees not only returned to work, they held parties to mark the occasion.


Courage in the Face of Change

Imagine finding out that your major customer will no longer buy your principal product. This would be devastating for any company. Yet for Corning Incorporated, however, it was an opportunity for the CEO to show what he was really made of.

In April, Wendell P. Weeks, the Chairman, CEO and President of Corning Incorporated, faced shareholders at his company’s annual meeting to quell panic over the news that its industry-leading Gorilla Glass – a component in most smart phones – would not be used in the next-generation Apple iPhone6.

Weeks demonstrated real courage in the face of uncertainty. “Our products change, our markets change, and our businesses change,” said Weeks. “But what doesn’t change is our capacity for innovation, our unique capability set, and our ability to transform and lead markets.”

Sure enough, Corning ended the year with a string of new product launches and acquisitions. Its share price had soared, and investors remained bullish on the company’s future.


Fostering Diversity

I was struck last year by the leadership of leaders such as TD Bank CEO Ed Clark and Apple CEO Time Cook, both of whom staked their personal and corporate reputations on public statements supporting same-sex marriage and benefits for same-sex partners.

Clark gave a speech at WorldPride Human Rights Conference in Toronto about how the corporate world needs to embrace and respect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Although TD in 1994 became one the first Canadian companies to offer full benefits to the partners of same-sex employees, no senior executive at the bank had ever come out so strongly, in such a public forum, in support of LGBT issues.

Cook was already known as one of the most powerful gay business leaders in America when he made headlines by leading some 5,000 Apple employees in a Pride Day march in San Francisco. Cook had already staked his personal reputation on an enlightened position; it was a big step, however, to make support of Pride Day a corporate priority.

Cook and Clark embody, for me, a new generation of business leaders who are willing to use the influence they have, as both individuals and heads of large organizations, towards making the world a better place.


Living a Balanced Life

Max Schierson certainly isn’t the most well known CEO, and he doesn’t lead the biggest tech company, but he made powerful statements nonetheless when he resigned to spend more time with his family.

Former CEO of MongoDB Schierson posted a highly personal blog entry in which he revealed that he felt an obligation to his family to dedicate more time at home, and less at work. He said far too many men in leadership positions escape the demands of home life, and he didn’t want to be that kind of man.

“As a male CEO, I have been asked what kind of car I drive and what type of music I like, but never how I balance the demands of being both a dad and a CEO,” Schireson wrote in the Huffington Post. “While the press haven’t asked me, it is a question that I often ask myself.”


Demonstrating Resilience & Resolve

Mary Barra, the new CEO of General Motor’s had quite a challenging year in 2014. She faced a challenging six months due to safety issues brought on by faulty ignition switches and what appeared to be a corporate campaign to cover up the dangerous inadequacies in some of the company’s vehicles. In a recent article, she reflected that the year made her tougher, but not meaner and rougher.

How would your own leadership in 2014 stack up against these leaders?

This week’s gut check asks: is your leadership award worthy?


About the Author

Vince Molinaro

Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.

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