Posted by: Bill von Achen | November 2, 2010

Put Yourself Up for Re-Election!

It’s Election Day 2010 throughout the United States, and millions of Americans are casting votes for elected officials at the national, state and local level.  If you haven’t yet voted today, please voice your choice and vote.  Regardless of your personal political views, it’s the right thing to do!

In our democracy, political leaders are chosen by the people through the power of the ballot, and those who wish to continue to serve in office must be re-elected.  But what if we used a similar model in our businesses, and asked our employees to re-elect us?

That’s what Arkadi Kuhlmann, chairman and president of insurance company ING Direct USA, does every year at this time.  Crazy, you say?  Crazy like a fox, perhaps…

Here’s how Kuhlman explained his approach in a recent interview published in the New York Times:

“I’ve been the C.E.O. for 10 years.  In December, I’m asking the employees again, would you vote for me to serve with you another year?  My colleagues think I’m nuts, and the board thinks I’m nuts.  But I don’t want to serve here unless I’ve got the commitment of people genuinely wanting me to serve.

“It’s a vote—anonymous, of course.  I’m not asking for a popularity contest.  Part of it is, do you have faith in the mission?  Do you have faith in the company?  Do you have faith in me?  Now, the shareholders are O.K. with me, the board’s O.K. with me, the regulators are O.K. with me, and my customers seem to like me.  But what about the associates?  It’s a big question.

“The difficulty is getting people to interpret why I do this vote.  I want people to get two things from this.  One is that I don’t take the job for granted.  And No. 2, that I’m willing to be accountable to them, not because I work for them in a broader sense, but I’ve got to walk the talk, right?  So if I keep walking around saying all the time that our associates are so important, then why don’t they have a say in terms of whether or not I’m leading?”

(To read the complete interview with Kuhlmann, go to our Resources page at, and click on the link under the heading “Leadership.”)

Effective leaders need committed followers.  If you’re running a business (or the country, for that matter!), Kuhlmann’s approach may just help you to better understand what you’re doing right, and what you need to change.

How do you measure your effectiveness as a leader?  Does your measurement include asking your employees to “re-elect” you?  And what would you learn if you did?  Post your comments and ideas.  Thanks!


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