An Excellent Example Of Empowerment

Below is an exemplary story from Michael Lewis’ book Liar’s Poker on how empowered leaders can change a company.

In 1968, Lewis Ranieri was a sophomore English major when he took a part time job on the night shift in the Salomon Brothers mailroom at $70 a week. His wife lay ill in the hospital, and the bills simply accumulated. Ranieri needed $10,000. He was nineteen years old, and all he had to his name was his weekly paycheck.

He finally got up the courage to request A LOAN from a partner at Salomon whom he knew only VAGUELY. The partner told Ranieri that the hospital bill would be taken care of. Ranieri thought that meant it would be deducted from his weekly paycheck, which he couldn’t afford, and he began to protest.

“It will be taken care of,” the partner repeated. Salomon Brothers then paid the $10,000 bill racked up by the wife of the mailroom clerk with three months’ tenure.

There was no committee meeting. The partner hadn’t even paused before giving his answer. It was understood that the bill would be paid, for no reason other than it was the right thing to do.

The act moved Ranieri deeply who went on to become vice chairman of Salomon Brothers. He is considered the “godfather” of mortgage finance and in 2004, Ranieri was considered by BusinessWeek one of the greatest innovators of the past 75 years.

Empowered leaders who do the “right thing” have more success.


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