Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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William Hewlett and David Packard - Founders of Hewlett-Packard

William Hewlett and David Packard – Founders of Hewlett-Packard

A commitment to others defines the profound level of humanity that the great leaders displayed. They recognized employees, vendors and members of their communities as individuals, but also as valued human beings that had families to care for. They were never perceived as nameless assets, to be easily dismissed.

A noteworthy illustration of this level of commitment is found in John Patterson (National Cash Register). “In-plant healthcare, company sponsored vacation trips, children’s programs, and even an employee country club were only a few of Patterson’s employee benefits. Other industrialists accused him of coddling his workers. Patterson believed this paternalistic treatment of his workers, especially the Victorian era ladies, was not only the right thing to do but was also good for business.” [1]

Hewlett-Packard established a “gold standard” for employee commitment that was ahead of its time, and replicated by numerous other companies. “Many leaders claim to appreciate the value of talent in their organization, but [David] Packard also seemed to understand the nature of talent.

Rather than engineer their company to use people like replaceable parts, Packard and Hewlett respected their employees. They refused for example, to pursue boom and bust contract work because they did not want to go through cycles of hiring and then laying people off. They wanted the kind of contribution only loyalty can produce, so they modeled loyalty to their workers.” [2]

In Chapter 9 you recall went into detail about the great leaders’ character traits. One of the defining characteristics was found to be a deep sense of social responsibility from which this commitment to others stemmed from.

Henry Heinz (H.J. Heinz) “believed that a person only developed so much as the people under their charge developed. As such, he made it the mandate of all of his top executives to take a pro-active interest in their employees, and to cultivate a spirit of respect and appreciation throughout his company.

He encouraged solidarity amongst his workers no matter what their rank. Indeed, one of Heinz’s proudest accomplishments was in never having been witness to a strike within any of his own factories. He believed that if employers kept in close and sympathetic touch with their workers, any labor disputes that arose could be easily dissolved in the spirit of friendship. His theory proved to be true.” [3]

The same sense of social responsibility motivated Howard Schultz’s (Starbucks) commitment to his employees. “As the company began to expand rapidly in the ‘90s, Schultz always said that the main goal was ‘to serve a great cup of coffee.’

But attached to this goal was a principle: Schultz said he wanted ‘to build a company with soul.’ This led to a series of practices that were unprecedented in retail. Schultz insisted that all employees working at least 20 hours a week get comprehensive health coverage – including coverage for unmarried spouses. Then he introduced an employee stock-option plan.

These moves boosted loyalty and led to extremely low worker turnover, even though employee salaries were fairly low.” [4]



  1. John Henry Patterson (1844-1922) (NCR Corporation; home.paoline.com/knippd/whoincr/patterson.htm)
  2. Orfalea Paul, Helfert Lance, Lowe Atticus and Zatkowsky Dean, Inspirational Figures David Packard (West Coast Asset Management)
  3. Carmichael Evan, Lesson #3: Engage with Your Employees (EvanCarmichael.com)
  4. Skeen Dan, Howard Schultz Secrets for Success (Success Television, April 14, 2010)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It(Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) Read a Free Chapter

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
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Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved



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