When the CEO of a troubled airline leads by example

I am not in favour of capping bonuses or salaries in companies. In a market economy, those have to be set by the companies, however outrageous they might sometimes seem.

But what about when a company is in financial trouble and even sometimes had to be bailed out by the states? Shouldn’t it be logical that the company showed some restrain?

Haruka Nishimatsu

I was very impressed by this CBS article about Haruka Nishimatsu, the CEO of Japan Airline who leads by example:

  • He knocked down his office walls so anyone can walk in to see him.
  • He buys his suits at a discount store, because “a boss who wears Armani puts himself at arm’s length from his people”.
  • He empowers his employees to make decisions, come up and implement ideas.
  • He goes and meets his employees, and even gives them a hand with their daily tasks, to “just find what is going on at the front line”.
  • He eats in the company cafeteria and anyone can approach him to discuss an idea they have.
  • When his company struggled and had to cut salaries to stay afloat, he showed the example by setting his at just $90,000; a pittance for someone who runs the world’s 10th largest airline and a lot less than any of the company’s pilots.


To me, Mr Nishimatsu is an example of what any decent person should do in times of hardship. And with such an attitude towards its staff and shareholders, I bet that people at Japan Airline feel good about working there and they respect their leader.

I am a firm believer that happy, motivated and committed employees are an essential ingredient for the success of a company!

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