A small act of leadership humanity

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —October 9, 2014
Filed in Anecdotes, Business storytelling

“The biggest improvements come from small things done consistently over time in strategic places.” — David Allen

A company was all travelling together to their yearly retreat in Queensland. The company had grown over the years and was now quite a large number so the management team decided that everyone will travel economy class.

They were all booked on the same flight out of Melbourne and lined up a the airport to get their boarding passes. The CEO was in the same line as everyone else despite being a Platinum flyer–he could have joined the priority queue. When he stepped forward to get his pass the flight attendant saw his flying status and immediately upgraded him to business class. Before she could finish the transaction the CEO turned to the next person in the line and asked whether she had flown business class before. She said “no” so the CEO asked the attendant whether she could have his upgrade. “Of course” she replied.

We should cherish these acts of humanity from our business leaders and tell these stories wherever we can so leaders have models of the small things they can do that make a difference.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. Tom Ware says:

    This story does more than indicate generosity on the part of the CEO, it represents wisdom. Why? The CEO gains the gratitude of one member of his staff, but the respect of many of the others. The word gets around as to the type of boss he is. That’s one aspect of it.

    The second aspect is that, sitting among the staff in economy class, he gets to hear a lot of feedback about the company, being part of and overhearing much of the talk between the people who work for him. All of this benefit in just surrendering a more physically comfortable environment for the length of the trip.


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