The Story of the Anti-CEO
There was once a CEO of a thriving, 100 million-dollar business. What began as a dream in a garage had grown into a national organization with more than a thousand employees. According to every economic, social, and professional metric, the CEO and the company were successful.
As the business grew, the CEO found out that one of his employees had a daughter who was battling cancer. Upon learning the devastating news, he insisted that his employee work from home and take necessary Fridays off to be with his daughter during her routine cancer treatments.
Moreover, the CEO supported a campaign that helped raise more than $50,000 for this family in their difficult time.
In a dog-eat-dog corporate environment where employees are leveraged for productivity and held to the standard processes of days off, vacation time, and sick days, this CEO chose humanity.
That story sparked my curiosity.
The Leader People Will Follow
About a month ago, I reached out to this individual, this CEO, and asked if he would be willing to set aside some time for us to grab lunch. As I expected, he was generous and willingly available.
After catching up on each other’s back story and family dynamics, he told me about the genesis of his company. Sure enough, it was birthed out of failure and an incredible amount of persistence.
He oozed leadership and I found myself drawn in to his unique style. He wasn’t flashy, as I would expect from the stereotypical corporate CEO. He was the anti-CEO.
He led with humility.
What I began to realize is that he has built more than a business. He has built a culture.
In a world that makes you believe that humility is weak, this CEO has used it to create 400 percent growth over the past three years.
When I shared my observations with him, he responded, “I don’t see my role as a CEO any different from my role as a father, friend, or husband. I try my best to be the same person no matter what.”
His answer screamed of authenticity. And it’s his authenticity that people follow.
A few weeks after our lunch, I ran into him at a birthday party. While our kids playfully splashed in the pool, I asked him, “Have you guys had a good weekend?”
“Yeah, man. I helped a friend move yesterday so that took up most of the day.”
“He must be a great friend,” I said somewhat sarcastically. “Moving is probably one of my least favorite things to do.”
“Well, he’s actually an employee and he’s going through a difficult time so I decided to give him a hand. About ten other employees showed up to help him out too.”
I felt guilty for my narrow-minded, shallow response.
His actions echoed his words from our time at lunch. This guy was the real deal.
In a corporate environment that focuses on growing profit margins, padding investment accounts, and leveraging people for productivity, this guy has turned those notions on their head.
He has redefined leadership. And it begins with humility.
In a world that seeks to sell first, he seeks to serve first.
In a world that claims, this is my business, he says, “This is God’s business that I have the privilege of running.”
His example and our conversation further cemented in my mind that great leaders invest in others.
Too often, we’re fearful that if we give, nothing will be left. If we empty our tank, will anything remain?
There’s a beautiful parable in the Bible that reminds me of my CEO friend.
As the parable goes, a little boy’s lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish is turned into a feast for the thousands in attendance. As the scripture says, “They ate and were satisfied.”
But to me, the most beautiful part of this story is the little boy. He gave up his lunch not knowing what would be left for him to enjoy.
As the parable concludes, after the crowds were full, twelve baskets remained. The scriptures don’t say what happened with the twelve baskets, but I can imagine Jesus handing them back to the little boy with a smile.
So today, if you’re afraid of giving, if you’re afraid of serving because of what it might cost you, remember that a whole life doesn’t fear, a whole life gives generously because it has been generously given.
And when you give generously of yourself, the blessings will be tenfold.
In the case of my CEO friend and the story of this little boy, I’m reminded: it’s amazing when you humbly bring what you have to the table and watch God use it to feed His people.
That, my friends, is the definition of being rich.
Bring what you have been given, serve others, and get out of the way to let God do His work.
What have you been given?
How can you use it to serve others?