What Not To Do: 4 Life Lessons From Billionaires

What Not To Do: 4 Life Lessons From Billionaires


Switch & Shift’s own Ted Coine was recently included on Talent Tribune’s list of 75 most popular HR articles on the web. His featured article, “8 Leadership Lessons From Billionaires,” details important lessons from moneymakers like John Rockefeller and Warren Buffet. But his list got us thinking – what are some of the worst lessons learned from billionaires?

We did some research and compiled a list of 4 lessons in what not to do, brought to you by billionaires all over the world. From PR nightmares to legal woes, these tycoons wrote the book on how to ruin a reputation. To succeed in the working world, don’t do as they do – do the exact opposite.

1. Don’t Lie

Thanks to the Internet, fact-checking is easy. That’s why it’s important to tell the truth – especially when you’re in the public eye. Donald Trump can’t seem to remember that.

Trump, billionaire businessman and reality TV star, has gotten in trouble time and time again for failing to tell the truth. First, there’s his habit of lying about his net worth.  Then, there was the time he claimed to have evidence disputing President Obama’s citizenship. He even lied about avoiding the draft during the Vietnam War.  Just Google “Donald Trump lies” – you’ll get more than 600,000 results.

Trump was never exactly a model billionaire (or political candidate, for that matter). But his lies certainly don’t help.

The lesson: Just tell the truth – it will probably come out anyway. Whether you’re an entry-level employee or a CEO, the people you work with and interact with every day will respect you more.

Keep everything aboveboard – and don’t cheat to get ahead.

2. Don’t Cheat to Get Ahead

Our mothers always told us to play fair and square. One billionaire who didn’t get that memo? Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch, the Australian-American media magnate and owner of News Corp., was never great at making friends with the public (just see his sizable history of Twitter gaffes). But his biggest mistake was trying to get a leg up on the competition – using less-than-legitimate means. In 2011, it was revealed that Murdoch’s News of the World (among other News Corp. publications) had engaged in phone hacking and police bribery to access to confidential information. In addition to celebrities and politicians, the paper also hacked the communications of murder victims, relatives of deceased soldiers and bombing victims.

The result?  News of the World was shut down, many high-profile figures resigned, and Murdoch’s reputation was irreparably damaged.

The lesson: Keep everything aboveboard – and don’t cheat to get ahead. A workplace victory that’s earned is a lot more valuable than one that isn’t.

3. Treat Your Employees Well

A lesson that more than one tycoon could stand to learn? Fortune doesn’t give you the excuse to treat people poorly. One billionaire family who hasn’t yet caught onto that lesson is the Waltons.

The family behind the Walmart empire is no stranger to PR disasters. And most of them have to do with how they treat their employees. Walmart is known for skimping out on employee compensation – in fact, some economists argue that Walmart workers don’t make a living wage. The company is accused of keeping many employees part-time to avoid paying health insurance. And the worst part? Multiple Walmart stores have actually held food drives for their own employees.

The result of Walmart’s stingy actions? Protests, petitions and a never-ending public relations nightmare.

The lesson: Treat and pay your employees well. In fact, that’s a rule that can apply to any worker, at any level, in any industry.

4. Follow the Rules – Don’t Make Your Own

Billionaires aren’t exempt from treating others nicely. They’re also not exempt from following the law. Just try telling that to Silvio Berlusconi.

Italy’s former Prime Minister has a laundry list of moral and ethical violations, from homophobic comments to sexual misconduct. What really got him in trouble, though, was his habit of breaking the law. Berlusconi’s criminal record includes allegations of tax fraud, bribery, embezzlement, false accounting, wiretapping and more. He’s made an estimated 2,500 court appearances at 106 different trials. And for a long time, Berlusconi avoided jail by bending the law in his favor.

However, Berlusconi’s evasive tactics didn’t work forever. Between 2012 and 2014, he was sentenced to a combined 13 years in prison.

The lesson: Stick to the rules (and not just the legal ones). If there’s a workplace policy you don’t like? Give feedback or suggest a meaningful change – don’t take matters into your own hands.

The takeaway? It all comes back to the golden rule – treat others like you want to be treated. Oh, and maybe avoid breaking the law.

What life lessons – in what to do or what not to do – have you learned from today’s business bigwigs? Let us know in the comments.

[Switch & Shift]

March 30, 2016 / by / in , , , , ,

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