With his iconic comment, “You’re going to like the way you look,” George Zimmer of Men’s Wearhouse has sold suits to millions of men. This week, his Board of Directors fired him (even though the company earned $2.5 billion in sales last year, an increase from the prior year according to the New York Times.)
Many are saying he should quietly step down. Others are chanting, “NO. NO. NO. He shouldn’t go!” We don’t know the inside story, but it reminded me of a woman who was the Chairman of the Board of one of the best nonprofit organizations.
This woman could not find a replacement for herself. No one stepped up. She kept saying, “I can’t find anyone to walk in my shoes.”
Frankly, the thought of walking in another person’s shoes sounds gross. People want to walk in their own shoes…where they are comfortable. That’s where they will excel.
When you’ve built something from the bottom, it is hard to turn it over. I can understand George Zimmer not wanting to give it all up. But when we look at nature: if an apple doesn’t let go of the tree, it rots.
It’s a law of sacrifice. The wood sacrifices itself to the fire. The day sacrifices itself to the night. Gas in a car sacrifices itself for the car to move. Without sacrifice nothing moves forward. The word “sacrifice” means “to make sacred.” We often think of sacrifice as having to give something up, but it is nobler than that. When something is given up, it makes room for something else to evolve.
Part of me wants Zimmer to stay and fight. Another part says, “I just don’t know.” But this I do know: Only the seeds that sacrifice themselves to the earth become trees. In the same way, only leaders who sacrifice have the opportunity to become great.
By Shar McBee, author of “To Lead is to Serve”