Tony Hsieh, the retired CEO of Zappos.com, has died after being injured in a housefire at the age of 46.
Megan Fazio, a spokesperson for Hsieh’s, confirmed on Friday that he died peacefully on Friday, November 27th, surrounded by family. The cause of death is still under investigation.
Zappos current CEO, Kedar Deshpande, released a statement saying,
“The world has lost a tremendous visionary and an incredible human being. We recognize that not only have we lost our inspiring former leader, but many of you have also lost a mentor and a friend. Tony played such an integral part in helping create the thriving Zappos business we have today, along with his passion for helping to support and drive our company culture.
Tony’s kindness and generosity touched the lives of everyone around him, as his mantra was of “Delivering Happiness” to others. His spirit will forever be a part of Zappos, and we will continue to honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he was so passionate about.”
Personally, I was saddened to hear about the news of Tony Hsieh’s passing. People say books hit you at just the right time, and in 2010 his book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose did just that. It opened my eyes to the higher calling of leadership and the power of culture in business. It had so many gems in it:
“Money alone isn’t enough to bring happiness . . . happiness [is] when you’re actually truly ok with losing everything you have.” – Tony Hsieh
“Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values ultimately define the company’s character and brand. For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny.” Tony Hsieh
“Happiness is really just about four things: perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness (number and depth of your relationships), and vision/meaning (being part of something bigger than yourself).”- Tony Hsieh
“We must never lose our sense of urgency in making improvements. We must never settle for “good enough,” because good is the enemy of great.” – Tony Hsieh
“When you walk with purpose, you collide with destiny.” – Tony Hseih
A Powerful Lesson in Leadership
Hsieh had retired as the CEO of Zappos in August 2020 after running the business for 20+ years, which included being sold for $1.2B to Amazon in 2009. He spent a decade revitalizing the downtown area of Las Vegas for tech companies and people to live called “The Downtown Project.” His positive impact went far beyond the walls of Zappos and “The Downtown Project.” He often spoke about leadership, culture, and customer service to audiences far and wide.
While I didn’t know Tony personally, his passing provides us a powerful lesson in leadership we too often forget.
Leadership is Temporary, its Impact is Lasting.
Just think about it. Every single job in the world, including the one you have right now, will eventually be held by someone else. Look no further than the President of the United States, The Pope, or Zappos’s CEO.
It’s a humbling thought; these positions and titles that we work so hard to earn are only temporary. However, the impact you have on other people is lasting and can never be taken away. Your leadership position is temporary but your impact as a leader is lasting.
The hard truth is, the only day a title matters is on the first day, after that it’s how you do it.
The only day a title matters is on the first day, after that it’s how you do it.
While there is no doubt Hsieh had his share of failures during his 46 years on earth, he positively impacted other people will last for decades if not generations.
The best part, you get the opportunity to choose if you will make your temporary leadership position have the kind of impact on your circle of influence as Tony’s did in his life.
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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.