Nonsense at Work

The Empty Desk

I once worked for a shipping line which merged with a group that included hotels and gambling resorts. As you can imagine when conservative shipping meets liberal gambling, the two CEOs had very different leadership styles.

Their desks showed just how different. The shipping CEO’s desk was hidden under heaps of reports and documents. The other CEO’s desk was bare.

People at the shipping line believed that their man would become the CEO of the merged group, because everybody knew that the other CEO ‘never did any work’, as demonstrated by his empty desk.

They did not understand the meaning of the empty desk. It demonstrated a unique leadership style: visit the chiefs of the different business units constantly, ensure that they are performing and offer help if they are not.

Who got the top job? The CEO who hated to delegate.

Another visible difference between them was their egos.

Both had strong egos, but showed their egos very differently: The one had his ego on constant display as a means of bolstering his power, the other restrained his ego without losing his power.

The one glared at people because he believed that they were there to serve him. (It was even common knowledge that any executive traveling with this CEO was expected to carry the CEO’s luggage.) The other CEO smiled a lot and demonstrated that he was there to support his executives in running their businesses.

The one CEO empowered others; the other used others to empower himself to the extent that when he died unexpectedly not one of his executives were ready to take over. The top job went to a senior executive who had been mentored by the CEO with the empty desk.

I’m james@nonsenseatwork.com

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