American Airlines, once the largest airline in the United States, declared bankruptcy. This is not surprising news for the beleaguered airline industry; what is different is what is emerging from the wreckage. Gerard J. Arpey, American’s chief executive officer and chairman, resigned and stepped away with no severance package and nearly worthless stock holdings. He split with his employer of 30 years out of a belief that bankruptcy was morally wrong, and that he could not, in good conscience, lead an organization that followed this familiar path.
Remember when those in power were known for their high moral standards? Remember when the person at the top represented the organizations highest standards of excellence and character.
Maybe we should get back to that? Maybe we should ask organizations to hire people who will uphold the values of the organization above the profits of the organization?
We should celebrate Mr. Arpey’s choice. He upheld the moral high ground that the company should pay its debtors and retiree benefits while the rest of the board made the immoral decision to file for bankruptcy as an easy way out “because everyone else is doing it.”
I also found it interesting that American Airlines is calling it a retirement while the New York Times is reporting it as resigning because he thought the board was morally wrong. I wonder which is the truth?
Hint: The company who declared bankruptcy in order to get away from paying their debts might just be protecting their behind from Wall Street while the guy who quit because he thought that was wrong is likely telling the truth.
On top of that– Arpey didn’t hold the board hostage by taking a massive golden parachute. (In fairness, I have no doubt that with 30 years of service and having made $14.34 million in the last 5 years, that Mr. Arpey is hitting the bread line any time soon.) He just said… “You know what? If you make this move you are making it without me.”
I like that in a leader.