A True Leader is Worth Following

Tonight Amy Rees Anderson is the keynote speaker at the Utah Wonder Women event (which seems fitting given that everyone refers to my mom as Wonder Woman) on her new book “What Awesome Looks Like:How To Excel In Business & Life” so I, Dalton Anderson (Amy’s son), offered to write today’s blog post for her, so here goes:

I love YouTube. Nothing makes me hit the ‘Subscribe’ button faster than coming across a great channel with really insightful and entertaining videos. I recently stumbled on a YouTube channel called Gaming Historian, where creator Norman Caruso covers the history of various video games, consoles, and even legal battles related to the industry.  Norman masterfully covers each topic in a compelling and interesting way, and if you enjoy documentary-style shows at all, I highly recommend this channel. [Even if you aren’t interested in video games, his show is fascinating. There’s my shameless plug for a guy I truly don’t know— but quite frankly wish I did because he’s that cool.]

In one particularly incredible episode, Norman covers the life of Satoru Iwata, the fourth president of Nintendo. It’s an inspiring episode, especially if you enjoy games like Balloon Fight or EarthBound, but there was one segment that really struck me. In 2011, Nintendo released a groundbreaking product, the 3DS. It was a Game Boy (hand-held gaming device) utilizing 3D-display technology that allowed players to have a 3D experience without needing to use glasses. I was a senior in high school when this product was released, and I remember thinking it was going to change the world of video games. Granted, I was in high school, and what do high-schoolers really know about the future of anything (other than their weekend plans—and even that isn’t predicted well)?

It turns out that the 3DS didn’t sell as well as Nintendo had hoped. It spelled a huge loss for the company and layoffs seemed imminent. That’s when Satoru Iwata did something that puts him in my personal Hall of Fame of Great Leaders. He cut his own salary by 50 percent and claimed responsibility for the failure. Other executives followed his example by taking similar pay cuts.

I’ve heard critics say that a pay cut from $770,000 to $385,000 wasn’t much of a sacrifice, but I think that’s dismissive of the human capital involved in that decision. I can think of a lot of leaders that would choose their salary over their employees. Iwata didn’t lead from the front and then sacrifice his employees when the tough financial decisions had to be made. He took ownership and responsibility for the underwhelming sales of the new system. He was the type of leader that other leaders follow, as evidenced by the executives opting to take pay cuts as well.

As I thought about Iwata’s actions, I considered what I would’ve done if I was an employee at Nintendo. I imagined being on the development team for the 3DS, or the head of marketing for the system, and was the one actually responsible for the poor sales. I imagined how I would’ve felt knowing that my CEO cut his salary in half so that I could keep my job, even though I would’ve likely been fired at a different organization. If my boss did that so that I could stay, you better believe that I would move heaven and Earth to turn things around and help get my company in the green. The trust I’d have in my leader would be immense. In a competitive market of cutthroat tactics and politics, I would have complete faith knowing that my boss was a true captain of the ship.

Norman’s documentary points out countless examples of Satoru Iwata’s true leadership, and I honestly got teary-eyed at one point. The takeaway for me is that a true leader understands the value of those who they lead, and they work to keep the trust of those they serve. A great leader understands that their job isn’t always fair, but it’s worth it as they inspire others to become something greater. And succeed or fail, if a leader has done their job right, they’ll leave this life with a legacy that won’t be forgotten.

“Satoru Iwata embodied what Nintendo is all about. That video games are meant to be just one thing: fun. Fun for everyone.”– Norman Caruso

~Dalton Anderson (filling in for Amy Rees Anderson, author of the awesome book “What Awesome Looks Like:How To Excel In Business & Life )


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