Delta CEO Ed Bastian is a man I would follow into battle. Why? Because he has the courage of his convictions.
He stands up, speaks out and says what’s needed to be said in the aftermath of one of our all-too-frequent societal crises.
And, as he told Fortune CEO Daily, he does so WITHOUT his board’s prior approval. I’d like to believe that if Ernest Hemingway were alive today he’d define Bastian’s decisiveness as “grace under pressure.”
To jog the uninformed reader’s memory, I will remind you that Bastian’s comments came after he had discontinued passenger discounts to NRA members in the aftermath of the horrible Parkland, Florida, Middle School mass shooting.
When the fine folks who comprise the Georgia State Legislature heard about Bastian’s decision, they immediately threatened to yank a $40 million tax break for the Atlanta-headquartered airline. Bastian immediately responded with the now memorable words, “Delta’s values are not for sale.” That’s positively Nathan Hale-like.
And, I’d like to believe Bastion isn’t a lone wolf; rather, I believe he’s the prototypical CEO of the future.
That’s because he is one of an increasing number of CEOs who have discovered a spine and a voice in these divisive times of ours.
So, when the president responds to the shooting by saying, “We’ve got to do something” then chides GOP Congressional members for being afraid of the NRA, but immediately changes the subject and moves on to something new, we’re left with business and industry executives to fill the leadership vacuum (and remind us of the moral and ethical code upon which this country was built). And, that’s just what Bastian did.
Others have as well. But, many more need to lose the “This, too, shall pass” mentality. Because it won’t.
And, their silence will most assuredly come back to haunt them with Millennial customers and employees who are increasingly demanding employers not only state their higher purpose for existing, but are led by CEOs willing to put a stake in the ground.
These are perilous times for our democracy, and every American worker deserves the right to know exactly what type of organization they’ve joined. Delta’s employees sure do. Do yours?