Sacrificial Leadership



Last night while flying to San Diego from Atlanta I sat next to a VP of Sales & Marketing for a small health and supplement company. During our conversation she told me about a difficult period during her company’s recent history where they had about an 18 month downturn that dramatically impacted the entire organization. At one point during this period she was faced with the reality that she would have to let some of her team members go due to the critical nature of the downturn and the lack of funds left to meet the current payroll.

Many executives have been faced with these tough decisions and had to go through the unpleasant process of deciding who to let go and who to keep. It is especially tough if you have a small team that you have pulled together that is full of really good people who have performed well and sacrificed for the greater good or your organization.

I was extremely impressed by the solution this lady came up with to keep her team together and meet the new budgetary constraints she was now under. What creative plan did she devise to overcome this challenge? Did she use some accounting tricks to buy them time?

The answer may surprise you as it did me when I heard her tell me of her solution. This Vice President of this company volunteered to cut her own salary in half so that she could keep all her team together in an attempt to ride through this storm. She explained to me that she was in a position to able to do this because her husband also works allowing her to have the margin to make this sacrifice for her team and her company. Even so, I still find this type of sacrificial leadership very rare in today’s world and it is something we can all aspire to as we try to grow into servant leaders for our organizations.

I also found it amazing she had a husband that was supportive of such a plan as well. Most people would be looking out to protect their own interest and stock pile their own nest egg out of fear that the company may actually go under. This shows that they are a family that lives below their means and this enables them to sacrificially reach out and help others. This type of intentional living is rare today when most people are hanging on pay check to pay check no matter what their income level is.

Here are some thoughts and questions about sacrificial leadership this encounter prompted for me:

  1. Creating margins in our lives allows us to serve others sacrificially. 
  2. Sacrificial leadership changes the dynamic of an organization.
  3. Unselfish behavior in the corporate world is very rare.
  4. How can I become a sacrificial leader?
  5. Fear is often and obstacle to sacrificial leadership.
  6. How can I overcome the power of self-preservation to grow into a more sacrificial leader for my organization?
  7. Sacrificial leadership teaches us make decisions based on long-term thinking over short-term comfort.

What would you add to this list?

By the way there is a happy ending to this story. Her company was recently purchased and is doing very well now. They survived the cash crunch of their downturn and are thriving. I can’t help but think that this in large part due to one lady’s decision to exhibit sacrificial leadership to help keep her team together. I think those kinds of actions are Game Changers!

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  • Dean Pulliam

    This is an inspirational story, not unlike several others I’ve witnessed and even been a party to. It’s the quiet and deeply personal contributions that people make for the sake of others that reveal true character and compassion.

  • Sanjay Rakecha

    This type of Leaders are very few. Very inspirational story.