Human-Based Leadership Rewarded: Employees Strike to Reinstate Former CEO

September 4, 2014

Human-Based Leadership Rewarded: Employees Strike to Reinstate Former CEO

America’s history is marked with strikes led by under-valued workers demanding treatment as humans instead of a faceless workforce. When grocery store employees decided to strike for two months, the news was ordinary – except that the protest was in support of their former CEO.

After Labor Day weekend, Fast Company posted an article by Jessica Leber about a victory for Market Basket employees – the board approved the ousted and beloved CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas, to again control the business. Throughout the community, T. Demoulas was respected for treating employees with dignity — he invested profit shares to the happiness of employees, knew long-term staff by name and called employees during times of misfortune.

T. Demoulas was removed from his position as CEO of Market Basket when his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, won control of the New England grocery chain during a court battle. S. Demoulas wasn’t evil, but he fell into a common pitfall – running a business for the sole benefit of shareholders. Employees and customers ended the strike and boycott when Market Basket’s board allowed T. Demoulas to purchase a majority share of stock, thus reinstating his role as CEO.

At first glance, the lesson of the strike may appear to be to treat employees well, so employees can protect the c-suite jobs. The real lesson is simple – live by the golden rule. By treating others as they wish to be treated, destructive elements such as greed, distrust and fear are kept at bay. Instead, employees trust their employer and feel safe in their position of employment.

The widely known Hierarchy of Human Needs by Abraham Maslow reinforces the importance to meet employees’ physiological and safety needs. When employees’ do not fear their job or life, they naturally progress to higher achievement and ultimately, self-actualization. This process leads to innovation, high rates of production, loyalty, creativity and leadership. The company is set free of many barriers, opening doors of opportunity.

Employees value feelings of safety and achievement, and are willing to take risks to retain/reinstate human values. Such loyalty can carry organizations through crises, launch periods of innovation, and for Market Basket, reinstate a CEO.