Earlier this year my alma mater (the college I graduated from) named a new president. The long time serving president who had been in charge while I was there had retired several years ago and the person who had taken over from him had encountered some challenges on the business side of things that ultimately ended in his resignation. The new college president’s primary directive was to get things under control financially speaking. He was effectively having to fight for the very survival of the college in one of the most difficult economic conditions that the country is facing. As part of the cost cutting measures that he and the board of directors had to introduce was reducing faculty salaries. As one can imagine, this exercise is not one that deals with simple math as it is an issue that affects morale and can potentially undermine the need for continuous advancement. To help usher in the needed changes that would allow the college to survive and thrive once again the new president did something that is almost unheard of. He announced that for his first year in office he would not draw a salary from the college. This surprising act was not a simple altruistic gesture but rather a message to the stakeholders and the community. It demonstrated leadership in action and a commitment to the difficult changes that the institution needed to make.
The our economic conditions and the action of modern day executives have not made us accustomed to such action. In fact this act is unique on many levels and a powerful tool in leading the change that the organization needs. There is often an expectation in organizations that new leaders will bring about change. It is also often assumed that this transformation will come with a heavy handed approach with a “your either with me or against me” mentality. The reason that this approach is used is because it works, however, the action of this new college president offers an alternative but more powerful approach.
Few individuals or organizations are wiling to put their money where their mouth is and this is why this act is an ultimate act of leadership