Executive perks are in the news again.
I’ve seen far too many leaders begin to believe their own press and believe those perks are their right rather than a reminder of their responsibility.
In my book, Leading Leaders, I touch on this issue:
I’ve been privileged to work with and for a number of very fine people. Most companies and institutions are staffed with quality people. However, any sufficiently large organization will occasionally spawn what I call the “privilege personality.” Unfortunately, I’ve worked for a few of these people too. This is the person who thinks that their position or authority enables them to lord their success over others, that the company “owes” them their perks, and that the staff exists to serve their personal needs. They believe they’ve somehow inherited their position in the organization through the Divine Right of Kings, and therefore the entire staff exists to submit to their every personal whim.
This behavior gives the staff license for lack of integrity in return. Human nature will get the best of all but the most virtuous. The staff will cease to show initiative, they will start to do the bare minimum, they will wait for direction, and they will give the “privilege personality” exactly what he asks for, no more and no less. The leader ceases to be a leader and becomes a dictator instead, or alternatively, abdicates their responsibility to lead altogether.
Organizations where a “dictator leader” is in a key or senior position are headed for a cliff. Either the company will start to bleed personnel as they head off for greener pastures, or it will bleed money because the staff is no longer invested in ensuring the company is profitable. Something has to give, and either the leader fails or the organization fails. On rare occasions, there is success (usually in spite of the leader) but at such a cost that success is impossible to replicate.
The main point is this: leaders get privileges because, in general, those privileges help them be more effective at their job. But those “perks” aren’t awarded because those leaders are better people or more deserving. Sometimes those “perks” are part of the compensation package but in all cases the leader, particularly senior leaders, need to keep those “perks” in perspective. For example, in places with large parking lots, the boss has a marked spot so she’s not wandering around looking for a place to park while her team is waiting for her to start a meeting (and in the meantime doing nothing productive). Senior leaders often have separate restroom or dining facilities to maximize their time (restrooms), or because they entertain guests (dining rooms).
A good leader remembers his perks or privileges are there because he’s expected to perform at a high level and the value he’s expected to deliver in the future…not as a reward for past performance, and certainly not because the leader is any “better” than anyone else.