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When Being There Matters

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When an organization faces challenges, the true colors of an ethical leader are shown. On October 20th, Gordon Schaffer, an employee of national restaurant chain Papa John’s Pizza, was killed during a robbery in Columbia, Tennessee. The senseless nature of the 22-year-old’s death sent shockwaves through the local community and the company’s 4000+ restaurants.

Upon learning of his employee’s passing away, John Schnatter, CEO and President of Papa John’s, decided to pay for all of the funeral costs. But what really moved Gordon’s family was that the leader of the billion-dollar company also personally attended Gordon’s funeral.

“We never once imagined that this would touch anyone high up in the Papa John’s corporate office, let alone, John Schnatter,” Gordon’s sister posted on Facebook.

With Schnatter’s large responsibilities, he might have easily sent another top executive to represent Papa John’s leadership, but he saw the importance of being present during such a critical time for Gordon’s family and the organization.

Leading a company can definitely be a difficult task. Fulfilling the expectations of your stakeholders, ensuring the happiness of your customers and making sure employees are being treated fairly makes for a full calendar. But, ethical leaders understand that, no matter how busy their schedules may be, it’s vital to be present in a time of need. Schnatter did just that.

Nothing can ever replace the grief of losing a loved one. But Schnatter’s presence at Gordon’s funeral did bring additional comfort to his grieving family. It may have cost him a few missed meetings and thousands of dollars, but it made a statement to his employees: each of their lives is worth dropping everything for. And that’s priceless.

As always… Ethics First!

– Ron Taylor
Student Programs and Development Specialist, NASBA Center for the Public Trust