Robert Townsend, former CEO of Avis Rent A Car, could be a poster child for the kind of boss who shields his employees, enabling them to do their best work.
A powerful board member once asked Townsend for a tally of all the cars Avis owned. When Townsend said one didn’t exist, the board member demanded that he produce one.
Knowing it would be a time sink, Townsend refused, saying, “If I don’t need it to run the company, you sure as hell don’t need it as an outside director.”
Another time, earlier in his career, his boss, the chairman of American Express, stopped him in the hall. Rather than jockey for position, Townsend told him how hard it was to get resources to pay people doing such magnificent work on his team.
Do you have the backs of team members? Or do you use them to climb?
— Adapted from "Do You Have Their Backs? Or Just Your Own?" Bob Sutton, "Work Matters" blog.