A Long Forgotten Leadership Trait

Here is a leadership trait that you rarely see in corporate America today. But you don’t have to be a business leader to use it. Anyone can use it. In fact I believe it’s one of the great secrets to wealth.

Be generous – especially at Christmas time.

On Thursday all 300 employees at my company received an email invitation to an impromptu meeting in the lunchroom. We all wondered what the announcement was.

Our company founder’s son and daughter opened the meeting saying:

Our father was a generous man and loved each and every employee of this company and we decided that he would want to give you all a gift this Christmas. Our family has been financially blessed this year and in our father’s spirit we wish to share our blessings with each of you. This gift is not from the company, it is from our family.

Our founder passed away in 2005.

They proceeded to call each employee to the front, gave her a hug and handed her a Christmas card.

When everyone had received a card the daughter said, “Go ahead and open it.” Inside each card was $500.00 in cash. Five green franklins! The family handed out $150,000 in cash 10 days before Christmas.

You should have seen the outpouring of emotion. There were people in tears. Nobody expected this.

Then the daughter said, “This isn’t a company sponsored event so I don’t need to be politically correct – Merry Christmas.”

This happened at a company that regularly gives its employees double the industry standard annual raises, has a generous profit sharing program, and a generous bonus plan, so there was no need to do it. It was done out of kindness and love.

They gave the same amount to everyone from the CTO to the worker on the factory floor. The goodwill and positive energy in that room was overwhelming. In my working class days, we had many years where we survived on less than 10K a year and Christmas was depressing because of the financial strain. I know this gift meant a lot to every employee, but imagine what it meant to the single mom struggling through college while putting together widgets on the factory floor.

For most companies, the Christmas bonus has gone the way of the pension plan and free medical insurance. To me, Thursday at work was a trip back in time. To a yesteryear when Christmas was truly about goodwill, love, peace, joy, and giving. I don’t know if that day actually existed in the past or its a wishful revisionist history, but it existed at a factory in Eagan Minnesota on Thursday Dec 14th, 2006.

So in the spirit of our passed away founder, remember this Christmas season – people are the greatest asset on earth. Be generous to each other. We are all one.

7 thoughts on “A Long Forgotten Leadership Trait”

  1. Great,

    Wish Wallmart would do this. Would make for a real spirit of giving. In the end it is a chicken and egg problem. Are we there so that we can save via the Wallmart or is the Wallmart there to make a profit from our savings? One thing to remember, there is only so much to go around. So far it looks like we are the fools and Wallmart is raking it in, in this zero sum game, same for the healthcare. Question is, why do we even keep on going?
    I am glad there there are some ethical co’s left.

  2. Its that exact atmosphere that i long to return to after being out of the country for a year and a half. I truely miss my employers! Even if it is a dead-end job!

  3. Yep a long forgotten trait….

    Even middle managers can use this trait (to a lesser degree) to motivate a work force. Although it is not the only reason for it, it is a great investment.

    Simple things like donuts on weekends, and gifts on holiday’s reap huge rewards during the year.

  4. This is a great story, reading this reminds me of my Boss, and the way he treats us at our work, he has always given us a Christmas bonus of $50 and he has loaned us money out of his pocket when things were tight, given us time off at the drop of a hat when we ask. held BBQ fund raisers and bake sales to donate $ for employees in need. Given the employee chances time and again after they have made mistakes. (which i never thought was right) you would have to be a real screw up to get fired at my job. He has hired people back after they quite for various reasons. We are a non-union shop working around union workers. he has payed us above and beyond the Union scale in wages and benefits. All without the union dues and headaches. If you have any problem he has a open door and helps work those problems out. He has been a Very generous person to all of us. on the eve of this Christmas season he will have the terrible task of laying off 60% do to the cut backs of government. Some of us will stay a lot will go. His task I believe is a heart wrenching one. Thank you John Wilson for all you have Done for us on this contract, Been a Good run..!

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