On August 15, 2011, Warren Buffet, often called the “Oracle of Omaha,” wrote an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times in which he called on Congress to increase his taxes. In it, he said that he and many of the super-wealthy of the United States are willing to pay more because they see poor and middle-class people suffering. After discussing the tax situation for the wealthy (he said that he paid a smaller percentage in taxes than anyone in his office), Buffet wrote, “These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.”
Whatever one's opinion of the politics of the situation may be, I say the Mr. Buffet is my hero as a leader because he says he is willing to give more so that other people can benefit. Obviously, he can afford to give up some of his money in additional taxes, but he has also donated and pledged significant sums to help the less fortunate through his Giving Pledge. In addition, it seems that Mr. Buffet is willing to share more than his financial wealth.
While writing my book on Affective Leadership℠, I looked at Warren Buffet’s leadership style. An Affective Leader is one who connects with others on an emotional level so that leadership is possible. Only when emotional connections exist does it become possible to work together to change the future. As an investor, philanthropist and industrialist, Buffet is one of the world’s most successful investors. His decisions and those of his employees affect thousands of people around the world. They have certainly made a difference (changed the future), for better or worse.
Buffet has built a very loyal team. I understand that no manager who sold a company to Buffett has ever left that company for a competitor. He heaps praise on others while sometimes expressing his own shortcomings. He builds trust by extending trust, and he possesses boundless curiosity. Those who have written about him say he honors and practices integrity, and he makes his executives feel valued and proud to be part of the company. His executives say they want to “make Warren proud.” We need more leaders who can develop this kind of loyalty and make this kind of difference.
When I see so many people who seem to be operating only from their own self-interest, it is remarkably refreshing to see someone willing to act and to speak out in this way. Far too few Americans seem willing to share their wealth, which includes not only money but also time, intellect, spirit and creativity. With articles like the one in the Daily Mail declaring that the income gap between the rich and poor in the U.S. “falls behind countries such as Cameroon, the Ivory Coast and revolutionary Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen – and only just in front of Uganda and Jamaica,” I believe we who can must do more.
Mr. Buffet said in his article, “My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.” I think it is time for all of us to get serious about making a difference, whatever our financial circumstances.