You Have To Lead By Example
Twenty years ago, Hamdi Ulukaya decided he needed to get out of Turkey, his home country. As a political science student he was an activist in the Kurdish-rights movement, which drew the attention of the nation’s government. After being brought in for questioning by the Turkish police and then released, Ulukaya knew there was a strong chance that next time he was interrogated he may have been detained or even tortured.
Four months later, he arrived in New York City with only a small suitcase, three thousand dollars and a place at Long Island’s Adelphi University.
Fast forward and now Ulukaya, who came to the United States as a refugee from the politically unstable Turkey is CEO of Chobani, the best selling brand of greek yoghurt in the country. He employs over thousand people across his two factories, and boasted $1.5 billion in revenue in 2016.
The company is a major employer in the towns of New Berlin, New York and Twin Falls, Idaho where the factories are located. His workforce includes four hundred refugees. With employees of nineteen different nationalities work side-by-side, Ulukaya has hired sixteen translators to facilitate the integration of the different cultures.
Providing employment to new members of the community is a wonderful gift to them and the community at large. What better way can there be to welcome someone who has left their home seeking refuge in a country that promises more safety and security than to offer them a job?
For longer-standing residents of the community, integrating new immigrants into the local workforce immediately provides us with a reason to interact and get to know each other. When we work together we automatically have shared experiences we can talk about.
We sometimes fear and distrust the unknown, including people whose faith or nationality is unfamiliar to us. Working alongside each other on common goals, we have the opportunity to recognise the things we have in common. Our different backgrounds don’t change the fact that we share very similar fears and desires.
Hamdi Ulukaya has displayed incredible leadership by demonstrating how doing something effective in the community can be a part of having a very healthy business. Where else can we use his example to consciously bring together different parts of society to work towards a common goal – uniting otherwise disparate groups of people in a way that encourages them to embrace their shared humanity? Could each step in this direction help heal some of the political, racial and religious divides that threaten to tear us apart?