5 Business Role Models for Office Rookies

Last Updated Mar 1, 2010 8:16 AM EST

For those in the early stages of their careers who are struggling to find their own definition of success and figure out how to reach it, role models are particularly valuable. Offering a blueprint for what your career could be and a yardstick against which to measure your own behavior, a truly excellent example of business leadership is better than a thousand abstract rules and tips.

But among the recent product recalls, pyramid scams and crumbling legacy industries, it can be hard for the office newbie to find someone to truly look up to. Thankfully, on the American Express OPEN Forum blog, Glen Stansberry has rounded up some examples of big business behaving admirably that can act as guiding lights for those early in their careers.

  • How Southwest Handled 9/11 -- On September 11, 2001, airlines were forced to shut down for days. This meant that all airline passengers, flight attendants and pilots were stranded with the planes across the country. Instead of merely sitting and waiting, Southwest employees were encouraged to take passengers bowling or to the movies to pass the time.
  • Toyota's Digg Transparency During The Recall -- Toyota recently announced that they would have to recall 2.3 million vehicles for faulty brakes. Instead of letting a PR team handle the issue with only press statements and interviews, Toyota offered a live conversation on one of the most popular communities on the web: Digg.... Over a thousand hard questions were submitted from consumers and even past employees, and [CEO Jim] Lentz answered as many as possible in the given time. The questions were asked in order of votes, and none were filtered. It was a totally transparent interview.
  • The Redfin Blog Saved the Company -- Redfin is an online real estate brokerage firm that gives back two-thirds of the commission that traditional agents charge. Real estate agents hated it, and started blacklisting anyone who used the service. So, instead of keeping the problem quiet, [CEO Glenn] Kelman started a company blog that focused on many of the awful aspects of the real estate business. The blog was raw and authentic.... Since starting the Redfin blog in 2006, business has grown dramatically.
  • Costco's CEO is the Normal Guy -- Over the past five years Costco's stock has doubled, and revenues continue to grow at an impressive rate. Yet... [CEO Jim Sinegal's] name tag plainly says "Jim," he answers his own phone, and his plain office at the company headquarters doesn't even have walls. While other CEO's are spending tens of thousands of dollars just decorating their offices, Sinegal pays himself a yearly salary of $350,00. His employee turnover rate is the lowest in the retail industry, over five times less than rival Wal-Mart.
  • How Starbucks' CEO Handled Company Tragedy -- In 1997 three employees were killed in a bumbled robbery of one of their Washington D.C. stores. Instead of issuing a press release or calling legal counsel, CEO Howard Schultz flew straight to D.C. and spent the entire week with the employees and their families in the area.
In the lengthy post on the Open Forum blog Stansberry lists a further five business role models. If you're in the mood for further inspiration, check it out.

(Image of old school hero by cybernetiks2, CC 2.0)

  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.