One of my partners shared a story of a man he is close too. I will call him Steve. He was a mid-level manager in a plant for many years. When the plant manager was removed, Steve was asked to become the interim leader. In the meantime, the plant was acquired by a new company. Steve ended up staying in the role for five years. Bringing positive leadership to the organization, he elevated the culture and he dramatically improved profit.
The parent company began to close plants. Steve’s plant was on the target list, but because of Steve’s success, they decided to delay closing the plant, they moved it to the bottom of the list. Then things got worse and the decision was made to close the plant. It was Steve’s assignment, over a year, to fire all the people.
It was a wrenching process. Yet instead of minimizing his pain and psychologically distancing himself, Steve did the opposite, he practiced empathy. Steve’s employees knew he didn’t want to lay them off. They knew he was doing everything he could to help them through their transition. It was this positive leadership that kept the plant functioning at a high level over a year when performance should have collapsed. It took a toll; Steve indicated he never wanted to go through it again.
Yet this declaration leaves me with a question, if Steve was forced to do another such downsizing, how would he do it? Would he distance himself? My opinion is a definite no. Positive leadership is hard, it requires personal sacrifice. When we finally move from manager to positive leader, we become willing to sacrifice for the common good. It becomes part of who we are and it accounts for why the culture changes. To sacrifice is to make sacred. When a leader leads from love the culture changes and relationships flourish, even in the darkest of times – especially in the darkest of times.
- Why does positive leadership often cause an increase in profit?
- Why does positive leadership often require sacrifice?
- Why does sacrifice often transform relationships?
- How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?