Employees in too many companies look at their senior executives and see self-interested, short-term focused, ego-driven greed. There are, of course, plenty of employee-focused, trustworthy, and loyalty-inspiring senior executives, but not enough to go around. CEOs cannot inspire commitment from their workforces unless they can first show they are committed to them. Many CEOs of employers of choice have what I call a “give-and-get- back” mindset that is typical of “servant leaders.”
One of those CEOs is David Neeleman of Jet Blue Airlines, which, in a declining industry, had 12 consecutive quarters of profitability and the highest percentage of seats filled of any airline. Neeleman is proud to say he operates a “lean but not mean” organization. Jet Blue reservation agents work from home to conserve costs.
Yet, Neeleman knows many of his 6,000 employees by name, asks about their personal lives, and is constantly thinking about ways to improve the morale of all crew members. He even stays behind after planes have landed to help clean the cabins and pitches in to pass out snacks when he flies. One of the pilots was quoted saying, “I’d walk through a burning building for him.”