Sector News

A Company That Demonstrates The Power Of Altruistic Leadership

August 28, 2015
Borderless Leadership

For over 30 years, Yonkers, NY-based Greyston Bakery has maintained a policy that encourages anyone to apply for employment, regardless of his or her education or criminal record. Profits from their organization support daycare centers, health clinics and counseling services. Its cakes have been served in the finest restaurants and at the White House. As Rebecca Leung reported in her article, “Greyston Bakery: Let ‘Em Eat Cake,” “The bakery doesn’t hire people to make cakes. It makes cakes to hire people.”

Mike Brady, the bakery’s CEO, is committed first and foremost to helping people succeed in life. Greyston’s commitment to human growth and potential gives people a first and second chance in life and it is winning because of it. “We are seeing a tipping point in consumer and business interest in buying from mission-based companies, and our sales have grown by over 50% in the last 4 years,” Brady said.

Social innovation is the next major business model disruptor, and Greyston Bakery’s open hiring model is a perfect example of how social justice can drive competitive advantage. We compete successfully in the global supply chains of Ben & Jerry’s and Whole Foods Market because we differentiate our business based on giving anyone a chance for employment without concern for their background or experience. It is a groundbreaking model that our partners appreciate and support.

When I heard about Greyston’s story I was reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The opening of the novel particularly moved me as it colorfully captured what I believe to be at the heart of altruistic and successful leadership. The narrative speaks of the legend of Narcissus, a young boy who knelt by a lake each day to admire himself. One morning, overwhelmed by his own beauty, he fell into the lake and drowned. A goddess then appeared to find the lake filled with salty tears. She asked the lake why it wept for the boy, assuming it had delighted in his beauty. She was wrong. The lake grieved its own beauty when it recognized itself in the reflection of Narcissus’ eyes. The lake had never noticed the boy’s appearance at all.

It is critically important as a business leader to understand what your employees see when they look at you. Do they recognize in your eyes an interest in yourself or in them? Do you help them find their own beauty and strength or blind them by yours? The answers to these questions are the secret of truly effective leadership.

If your employees only see recognition and rewards flowing to you instead of experiencing personal benefits and growth from following you, your ability to influence them will be limited. If their focus is on your benefits it will be easier to sway your team away from following you for them to pursue other opportunities. However, if they experience sustained, positive and personal benefits such as good jobs, a comfortable income, development opportunities, personal time to enjoy life outside of work and a caring and rewarding work environment, then a strong emotional and psychological bond can be formed. This bond is also reinforced by those closest to your employees – family and friends – because they may share in the benefits, or at least take joy in seeing them happy and fulfilled. The connection creates magic and inspires people to follow you anywhere.

Leadership That Counts

Acting selflessly towards others does not come naturally to every leader. Nor are most corporate structures set-up to encourage or foster such behavior. In many cases, personal objectives are given to leaders to reward work tasks versus achieving success by effectively leading others.

By Louis Efron

Source: Forbes

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