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Give away power to spur your team

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

High-profile leaders such as Richard Branson possess forceful personalities. Their charisma fills a room.

Arthur T. Demoulas prefers to lead quietly. He’s the longtime CEO of Market Basket, a regional supermarket chain in New England.

Demoulas avoids the spotlight. He rarely issues public statements or does media interviews. Yet he’s a beloved leader. The company’s 25,000 employees almost universally adore him.

How does he do it? By giving up power.

He adopts “distributed leadership,” where everyone can have an impact on the bottom line, suggest ideas and profit from their efforts.

Demoulas believes in paying people well. Market Basket’s profit-sharing policy is among the best in the industry. In 2013, the company paid $44 million in bonuses based on its performance; in 2014, it paid $49 million. These sums far exceed the industry norm.

When Demoulas visits one of the chain’s roughly 80 stores, he doesn’t huddle with managers behind closed doors. Instead, he chats with employees and shows interest in their lives.

As a result, he gets to know them as fully dimensional people. He even attends funerals for their family members.

By showering attention on low-paid staffers, Demoulas motivates them to excel. Shawn Moran, a part-time meat department employee, noticed the label for Lloyds Ribs changed. So he proposed to his manager that they display the ribs differently so that shoppers could see the new label more easily.

Such input from an entry-level employee may seem trivial, but it’s actually important in the low-margin supermarket business. Improving consumers’ experience in small ways can boost sales.

— Adapted from We Are Market Basket, Daniel Korschun and Grant Welker, AMACOM.

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