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A CEO Who Cleans the Toilet


I read this letter by a CEO to his manager from a book:

Congratulations on how wonderfully you and your staff handled the overwhelming crowd on June 17. I was especially impressed with Dorothy on the cash register. Great smile. Great manner. In a busy place, a lot can happen in just an hour. That’s why we need you to be sure the bathrooms are inspected at least hourly. We avoided a potential public relations disaster at 11.15 am on June 17. God forbid that a customer, a health inspector, or a food editor from the newspaper might have gotten there before me. Keep up your outstanding customer service. I appreciate it.

Cleaningly yours,


P.S. Check the supplies closet. You may need to replace the gloves. JD.

If you look at the content of the simple letter, there is no recriminations or accusation anywhere. Instead it is littered with words of appreciation and congratulations on a opening well executed.

Except that the CEO was the one who was doubling up as a janitor and cleaning up the toilet because one of the cubicle was soiled with faeces.

This is someone who folds up his sleeves and work with the rest of his team when he sees that everyone is overloaded. An “eye power” leader will just assign someone to do it. Worse is someone who will look for the manager, berate the manager and leave the team to clear up the mess.

There is another type of “leader”, one who will just notice this, give an evil smile and tell the manager later during appraisal that he felt that the opening could be better managed.

What is a leader?

He or she is one who has one of the levels of leadership:

The five levels of leadership are

(1) position--people follow because they have to;

(2) permission--people follow because they want to;

(3) production--people follow because of what the leader has done for the organization;

(4) people development--people follow because of what you have done for them; and

(5) personhood--people follow because of who the leader is and what he has done for them.

And at the same time a leader maximises the potential of the employees under them.

A leader must

(1) evaluate them;

(2) model for them;

(3) give them permission to succeed;

(4) transfer authority to them;

(5) publicly show your confidence in them;

(6) supply them with feedback

(7) release them to continue on their own

One reason for this article is because Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has been rated as top in corporate reputation while the banks finished near the bottom of the list. Dead last is tobacco companies.

According to an analyst, the reputation that he has is because of his “vision, leadership, accountability, admiration and trust”

That is one reason why I believe in Informatics, although they had been making losses for a few years in a row, turning black only last year. I had a superb lecturer from there when I was taking a part time course who was very hardworking and often went without lunch because of his jam packed schedules. He is one of the top management there now.

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SS said...
April 7, 2010 at 5:07 PM  

Just like this CEO who rides the MRT? ;)

Lemizeraq said...
April 8, 2010 at 10:09 PM  

Hi SS,

Thanks for visiting. Yes, exactly. Someone who is humble and a leader is one you will follow anywhere.


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