You’re driving in to work, and get stuck in horrible traffic. You’re going to be late.
You pull into the office parking lot 10 minutes after your scheduled start time. But your anxiety starts to wane a bit when you notice that there’s actually an open parking spot right near the front door.
You smile as you drive quickly toward the spot. It’s a miracle that a spot so close could be open at this time.
Your smile disappears, though, when you notice the sign in front of the parking spot. The words read, “Reserved for the CEO.”
Has something like that ever happened to you or someone you know?
Although the phenomenon of parking spots being reserved for executives seems to be pretty rare these days, we should look very closely at anything we do as leaders that could give the appearance that we are somehow elevated above team members on any type of pedestal.
The pedestals for leaders can come in many varieties. They can be very subtle, like simply failing to show a willingness to do what we ask team members to do.
The pedestals can also be much more obvious, like perks, or even pay.
There seems to be an inverse correlation between elevating oneself above team members and leadership effectiveness.
For instance, in an interesting article on CBSNews.com it was noted that the median annual compensation for CEOs of the public companies in the Customer Service Hall of Fame was a little over $3 million, while the median annual compensation for CEOs of companies in the Customer Service Hall of Shame was a whopping $14.9 million. This data suggests that there may be a correlation between selfish senior leaders and poor customer service.*
Of course, there is likely a correlation between being selfish as a leader and poor performance in most, if not all, areas of leadership. A leader who puts himself before his team members is going to have an incredibly difficult time creating and sustaining a highly-engaged, high-performance team.
This is why it is so critical that we look for and remove as many of the little ways we put ourselves on pedestals as leaders as possible. These are signs of selfishness. They are signs of inevitable failure.
A leader who can relate to team members, makes the effort to share in their struggles, and shows a willingness to do anything she asks her team members to do is likely going to be much more effective by every metric. She knows that if anyone should be placed on a pedestal, it should be the team members who go above and beyond to do great things.
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