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Enduring Leadership: How We All Gain From Max Schireson’s Experience

Max Schireson resigned recently as CEO of MongoDB to spend more time with his family. It turns out that while the 300,000 miles he logged in travel each year between New York and Palo Alto were brief, the results were enduring.

While Mongo—an open source database provider—lost a leader, his family and society gained one. What lesson can we take from Schireson’s decision?

“Leaders must have a stated constancy in purpose with a message that is clear to employees, suppliers and customers.”

Families give us meaning and purpose. This is very much in line with the teachings of Dr. W. Edwards Deming who referred to this as a “constancy in purpose.” Leaders, much like fathers and mothers, must have a stated constancy in purpose. The message must be clear to employees, suppliers and customers. While it can change and improve as conditions dictate, it should not vary much long-term as we so often see in American leadership today. How might the following mission and values statement be applied to your business purpose?

“To help our spouses and children consistently prosper by benefiting society and one another. We will do so by raising great human beings through continuously improving one another along with those we come in contact with. … To provide an environment to promote joy at home and at school where we can all achieve our personal goals and give families in the future an opportunity to share in the same values. These must be pursued in a manner that is socially responsible and commands respect for integrity by making positive contributions to society.” (1)

Unfortunately, the company responsible for these statements lost their way and closed their doors a few years ago, but Max Schireson did not. He learned that some things are more important than money, fame and the allure of trying to lead by being away from home.


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