Leaders Who Lead.

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GeeZ:   Now there’s a novel concept.   I think we will see over the coming months “leaders”  who find themselves all over the road as they bounce from one gutter to the other.   A friend suggested this topic and used Jerry Grinstein as an example of a Leader who, over the past few years, demonstrated some true bootstrap leadership skills. 

Who is Jerry Grinstein??  Jerry is a Board Member for Delta AirLines who, back in the 80’s ran Western Airlines, and who was instrumental in its successful merger with Delta. (For clarification that would be the 1980s ChiQ.)  The merger was long held out as one of the few (maybe the only) successful airline mergers in airline history.   

Anyway during the cratering of the airline business a few years ago, Mr. Grinstein took the helm (or should I say, Hell) of Delta Air Lines as it rocketed toward bankruptcy.  I always wondered about his motivation; if perhaps there was some feeling of personal responsibility for the disaster which Delta had become while he sat on the Board of  what was becoming a runaway train.  But as I’ve heard said in church, God doesn’t care under what pretense you arrived, just so long as you are there, you’ve got a chance.

Unlike many of our other corporate “leaders,” he did not do it for the money.  He took on the CEO position at Delta at a sub-market salary, forwent all bonuses, and when Delta emerged from bankruptcy, which generally signals BIG PAYDAY for the muckity mucks, he gave all the gravy coming to him and gave it back to the employees of Delta in the form of a scholarship and hardship fund to help Delta families.  It is fair to say, he was not unduly enriched for his efforts as many in the airlines have been over they years (and continue to be)  as well as at the other corporate giants, many of whom are now teetering on the brink.

But what makes Jerry a great leader??  I am sure there will be many white papers written about this over the years, but I’ll take a crack at it in a few lines here, which should suffice for most.  First, regardless of who got Delta in the mess it was in, he took personal responsibility for the airline and its ultimate fate.  Second, he communicated clearly with both management and the rank and file of the company as to the situation and what corrective steps were being taken; often with a keen wit and  often self-defacing sense of humorhit .  He did not whitewash the suffering that was taking place but made sure the employees knew what was in it for them if they were able to collectively pull Delta out of the ditch.   He was confident and comfortable in the capabilities of his management team and allowed them to leverage their skills to the benefit of of the airline overall.  He leveraged media opportunities (the US Airways scare) to both center and rally the employee base.  He not only sacrificed monitarily, but at over the age of 70, a time when he could have been kicked back fly fishing, running charitable foundation, or doing whatever it is that rich retirees do, he gave up some of his key golden years to give Delta a chance.   And lastly, and I believe this is a key ingredient for success in any leadership endeavor, he was in the right place, at the right place and in the right frame of mind.  In my mind he was really about the only person crazy enough and capable enough to lead.    

What do you think ChiQ?  Are there any world or corporate leaders out there living or dead who have struck you as being particularly good at their vocation?

ChiQ: wow. Mr. Jerry certainly seems like the kind of person we need more of in this world. a selfless, devoted, fighter. well Geezer, i dont know much about the corporate world, but i do know of two people who are fantastic leaders. now im going to go out on a limb here and say something really crazy: i see my parents like this. Especially recently, i’ve been fortunate to actually recognize everything they do for me and my little brother. its incredible. first, i think of my mom. she dedicated a whole nine months to me and suffered so that i could live. she came into her position as a mom with selflessness. as parents, my mom and daddy decided they were ready to put their whole selves into a whole new job: raising a child. my dad works so hard so i can get a fabulous education and have clothes to wear and food to eat. he works all day and i reap the benefits. it reminds me of Jerry’s giving his bonuses back to the company. he went through hell and still had the heart to give back. thats what my dad does everyday, although i hope his job isnt as much of a nightmare as putting a nearly bankrupt company back together.

Now, they might not be world-renowned political leaders or CEO’s, but my parents are MY leaders. they set the example for me in my life and i see, on a daily basis, pieces of the person i hope to become. especially during these “crazy teenage years”, raising a kid can be almost as trying as making a big merger or saving a broken company. whenever i mess up, i know they’re always there to pick up the pieces of my mess and guide me in the right direction so i can put them back together. they do all they can with a smile on their face, a bit of humor, and they certainly dont do it for the money. i think raising a kid can be one of the biggest leadership positions a human can take on. my parents did a great job, and i just hope others will do just as well.

wow. what a sappy blog my end turned out to be. how very un-teen like. but i think too many teens dont appreciate everything their parents do for them, but as for me, im saying “hats off to mama and daddy!”

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