Enjoy this excerpt from our new book, Healthy Leadership.
Two young men were working their way through Stanford University in the late 1890s when, during one semester, their funds got desperately low.
They came up with a plan: They would invite Ignacy Paderewski, the great Polish pianist, to give a performance. After paying the concert expenses, the two students would then use the profits from ticket sales to pay their room, board, and tuition.
The pianist’s manager asked for a guarantee of two thousand dollars. Undaunted, the students accepted the terms and staged the concert. Alas, the concert generated only sixteen hundred dollars total—not enough to even pay Paderewski. The big gamble was a bust.
After the performance, the students sought the famous pianist, gave him the entire sixteen hundred dollars, a promissory note for four hundred dollars, and explained they would earn the remainder of his fee and send the money to him.
“No,” replied Paderewski, “that won’t do.” Then tearing the note to shreds, he returned the money and said to the two young men. “Now, take out of these sixteen hundred dollars all of your expenses and keep for each of you 10 percent of the balance for your work.”
The students happily accepted this act of generosity.
The years rolled by—years of fortune and destiny. Paderewski became the Prime Minister of Poland. The devastation of World War I came, and Paderewski’s only focus was to feed the starving thousands in his beloved country, but this seemed an impossible task.
Yet, just as the need was most severe, thousands of tons of food began to arrive in Poland for distribution. It turned out the supplies had come from the United States—from the American Relief Administration.
After all the starving people were fed and hard times had passed, Paderewski journeyed to Paris to thank the head of the American Relief Administration for the food he had sent. That man would soon become the President of the United States. His name was Herbert Hoover.
“That’s all right, Mr. Paderewski,” said Mr. Hoover upon meeting the Polish leader. “You don’t remember it, but you helped me once when I was a student at college, and I was in a hole. You invested in me . . . now it’s my turn.”
Investing in other people is a wise strategy for leaders. It provides a far greater return on investment than the best mutual fund—and the dividends can manifest in unexpected ways, as they did for Paderewski.
Your investment in future leaders is the best predictor of healthy growth for your team and your business. Healthy leaders inspire good employees to become even better people. They help others build better lives for themselves.