I love a good underdog success story. If you’re familiar with Jimmy Kimmel’s history, you know that before he was one of the “big three” in late night television, he had his share of professional setbacks. Kimmel started his career in radio where he was fired numerous times—he and his wife moved every year for the first six years of marriage. Kimmel eventually worked his way into the Los Angeles market and his career took off.
In a recent Success article, Kimmel discussed his leadership philosophy and how he manages as both host and Executive Producer of Jimmy Kimmel Live!. For those of us looking for ways to be a more effective leader, you’d be wise to consider these three lessons.
Kimmel places a high value on being early for scheduled events.
I think it is disrespectful when you are late. My boss, Bob Iger [Chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company], is probably the only person who gets more done than I do, and he’s usually at his office at 5am every day… It’s also the reason why he’s my boss and not the other way around [Kimmel jokes].
Being prompt is more than a time management tool. It shows others that you are dependable, considerate, and organized. It also displays your discipline and sets the example for the rest of the team.
#2 Emotional Generosity
Kimmel’s dad was a high school dropout who ultimately earned a college degree and moved up American Express’ corporate ladder to become a senior vice president. After retiring, the CEO of American Express called Kimmel.
The only reason why he contacted me was to tell me how much, how well-liked my father was and how hard a worker he was [Kimmel begins to tear up]. I’m sorry—I’m very emotional about this because it was a very cool thing to do… My dad doesn’t even work for him anymore. He was not in the stratosphere at American Express. He came from nothing. But this man reached out to me to let me know how valuable he was to the company.
You cannot underestimate the power of small gestures of gratitude and recognition. To experiment with this, at your upcoming holiday party, make an effort to tell every employee’s spouse one nice thing about their work performance. You’ll impress your employees and create whole new base of supporters.
#3 Displaying Kindness
I mentioned generosity of words, but generosity of tangible rewards should not be ignored. When Kimmel worked at the legendary radio station KROQ, the morning team had a ratings bonus structure in their contract; Kimmel did not. Knowing Kimmel’s value to the team, the program director handed Kimmel a check from his personal account for $500.
It’s one thing to give out raises someone else is paying for, but when you reach into your own pocket, well, that’s something I’ll never forget.
Two years later, when Kimmel was offered his own show at another radio station with a substantial raise, he turned it down because the program director’s kind act, amongst others, generated an intense loyalty.
And that $500 cost me $140,000. Actually $280,000, because it was a two-year contract. So it was an excellent investment on his part.
I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of this method. Early in my career, I was fortunate to work for a division leader who planned a “meeting” in Biloxi. After going through the sparse agenda, he thanked us for the last year and handed each of us an envelope with cash. While most of us gambled it away in the hotel casino, the unwarranted gesture was not forgotten.
When you read these three lessons, it is evident that Kimmel is not using his leadership role to boost his dominance over others. He breeds a culture where his staff are fiercely loyal to him, not because he’s a star, but because his leadership is based on humility and treating others with respect. Kimmel does not have to work this hard, he chooses to because that is how he views the role of the leader. Can you imagine if your workplace operated this way?
As a side note, my apologies to Matt Damon. I was also going to write about him, but I’ve run out of space.