In case you’ve forgotten, here’s what real leadership looks like

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Where is your North Star?

That is what DSW did. Their filter said that, no, this is not a good idea for our most important asset. This would not synch up with our thoughts about that asset.

Using this as a rule of thumb would make the decision-making process so much easier, and it would serve as a constant reminder that the culture you build has to be aligned with the foundations of the business.

Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimer, the ultimate sign of luxury and wealth, decided that they had enough of the stories about their workers spending vacation time checking email. They decided to offer an employer generated email notice that is called Mail on Holiday.

Their employees can now choose to have all their incoming emails automatically deleted when they are on holiday so they do not return to a bulging in-box.

The sender is notified by the “Mail on Holiday” assistant that the email has not been received and is invited to contact a nominated substitute instead. Employees can then return from their vacation to an empty inbox.

The board’s seal of approval

“Our employees should relax on holiday and not read work-related emails,” said Wilfred Proth, Daimer’s board member for human resources. “With ‘Mail on Holiday’ they start back after the holidays with a clean desk. There is no traffic jam in their inbox. That is an emotional relief.”

Yes, culture should be a board-level discussion, and this shows the effectiveness when it is. When it is a board level issue, it carries a lot more weight — the kind of weight that culture discussions SHOULD carry.

These type issues are not just HR issues, because they salsa how the importance of leadership and courage. This brought to mind a discussion once at a Starbucks quarterly earnings call when someone commented to CEO Howard Schultz that Starbucks earnings could be stronger if the company stopped offering health insurance to its part-time employees.

His reply? He talked about how his father got hurt when he was a child and the family had no insurance. It created a tremendous hardship on everyone because they did not have any other options to fall back on.

He summed it up by saying that, “if you feel that you can get a better return with your funds, you can invest them elsewhere.” That’s because, as far as Schultz was concerned, the cancel-insurance-for-part-timers-option was off the table.

Supplementing your mission and values

These are examples of what I often call REAL leadership. It is never built around a slogan or gimmick. Leadership is built on everyday actions that supplement your mission and values.

If your Missions and Values are true and meaningful, use that as your North Star and you will exhibit the type of leadership that attracts and engages your workforce.
Today’s guest blog post comes courtesy of industry veteran Ron Thomas, CEO of Great Place to Work-GCC countries. Formerly the chief HR Officer of the RGTS Group in Saudi Arabia, Ron is also a senior faculty member of the Human Capital Institute and has previously held senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Contact him at or on Twitter.

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  • Chris McKerracher on 2014-12-03 5:57:53 PM

    Leadership is doing the right thing despite it possibly conflicting with short-term goals. Anticipate being in business for the long haul where usually, only the classiest survive.

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