There was no way Chris Lin could survive inside the Coca-Cola culture. So, I gave him a two-year unbreakable consulting contract and invited him to be our voice of truth. One of the best choices I ever made.

The Buddha Dordenma statue, still under-constr...

AFP/Getty Images via @daylife

Chris was a candidate to head up Coca-Cola’s marketing in Taiwan. He had spent time doing marketing for a local grocery distributor. Then he moved to Playboy Taiwan. But he didn’t like what he was being asked to do with the local models and quit to do marketing for the largest Buddhist charity in the country. As part of that, he wrote a book about the charity. It became a best seller. Then he wrote a song to do the same thing. It hit the top of the charts.

There was no doubt that Chris was in touch with Taiwan consumers, that he was a strong marketer, and that his creativity and independence were going to threaten so many people in the Coca-Cola system that he would suffer complete and total system rejection. I told him all that and had him propose a consulting agreement. The final deal was for three days a week for two years with no out, no bonus, no option to renew.

He was amazing. He gave us new ideas. He told us exactly what he thought of our ideas – good or bad – with no regard to personal consequences. He helped make things happen both within and outside the system that we never could have done without him. At the end of the two years, our local bottling partner decided he was too good to lose and gave him a new contract with that organization.

Through it all, Chris stayed true to his values and kept his life in balance. For example, one Friday he informed me that he was not going to come in to work the following Monday:

I have to go to India to donate bone marrow to a child with cancer.

It was one of those awe-inspiring things that leave no space for any comment – an absolute good that stands alone.

I was reminded of Chris at dinner in Shanghai this past Friday where I sat next to another inspiring lady from Taiwan. But that’s for a different story.

Sometimes the most unmanageable people are exactly the ones that can have the greatest impact. Don’t be bound by conventional approaches if you want to enable people to do things that will leave you speechless.



Note this is a Leader’s Perspective article, which is different than my normal, regular New Leader’s Playbook articles. Those generally focus on one of the ten steps of The New Leader’s Playbook, drawing on learning from specific leaders (who are not PrimeGenesis clients). My “Leader’s Perspective articles are comments on things I see in working with clients, read about, or hear from others.