9 Great Bosses Worth Working Overtime For

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Bosses get a bad rap. From Ebenezer Scrooge to C. Montgomery Burns, pop culture generally portrays the top brass as greedy, egomaniacal, or hapless. But among all the horror stories of big shots run amok, let’s not forget the extraordinary leaders who’ve used their influence to make life better for their employees—or even for society at large. In honor of National Boss's Day, here are 9 executives, entrepreneurs, and CEOs who actually deserve that "World's Best Boss" coffee mug.

1. THE EXECUTIVE WHO MODERNIZED BASEBALL


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Jackie Robinson is rightfully celebrated for breaking baseball’s color barrier, as well as being one of the most dynamic and talented players to ever take the field. Robinson’s opportunity, however, was in part due to Branch Rickey, one of the most innovative and nontraditional executives in baseball history. After a short-lived stint as a player, Rickey eventually found his true calling working in the front office. During his career, he was instrumental in a huge number of baseball modernizations, including the use of batting helmets, pitching machines, statistical analysis, and the concept of minor league affiliate teams.

Rickey understood that diversifying the game would require an extremely gifted player who also possessed near-superhuman restraint. He saw in Robinson the ideal combination of ability and temperament to withstand scorn and threats—in his words, "enough guts not to fight back"—and helped Robinson prepare by ruthlessly taunting him. Robinson’s massive success paved the way for black players to join the major leagues, and Rickey continued to be a civil rights advocate, declaring that "ethnic prejudice has no place in sports." Later in his career, his championing of Puerto Rican superstar Roberto Clemente helped lead to a new wave of superstar Latino players joining the league as well.

2. THE MESOPOTAMIAN FOREMAN WHO PAID WORKERS IN BEER

It’s impossible to say who the very first boss was—the concept of paid labor predates the earliest written records—but evidence from modern-day Iraq proves that 5000 years ago, at least one boss paid his workers in beer! This particular tablet contains the symbols for "rations" and "beer" as well as cuneiform writing describing how much was paid to a particular laborer, which essentially makes it an ancient pay stub. While we don't know this specific Mesopotamian employer’s name, or what project he was overseeing, raise a glass to this proto-boss who didn’t need currency to make sure his team was well compensated.

3. THE A-LISTER WHO'S AN ACCESSIBLE ALTRUIST


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Famed for her extensive charity programs, it’s no surprise that TV producer and star Oprah Winfrey is also a generous boss—it’s easy to find stories of her inviting employees over for dinner or even taking her entire production company on a Hawaiian vacation. But her staff loves Oprah for more than just her direct benevolence. "[Oprah’s] so inspiring because she’s not just a boss," says journalist and TV host Lisa Ling. "Everything you do, she asks, ‘What’s your intention behind it?’ You never find that in television. Oftentimes the only question is, ‘What is it going to rate?'" Another former employee, producer Janet Lee, praises Winfrey’s ability to relate and connect with her staff. "What was amazing with her was that the company really grew and grew every year and we had more people and more departments and she remembered everyone’s name. I always thought that was amazing."

4. THE PHARMACIST WHO PUBLISHED HIS BUSINESS ACUMEN

Fan Li, later known by the name Tao Zhu Gong, was an ancient Chinese military strategist. Born in 517 BCE in the feudal state of Yue (in modern southern China), he earned a reputation early in life for shrewd battle tactics and implementing psychological aspects into warfare. Later in life, Fan Li became a successful merchant-pharmacist and decided to share his accumulated wisdom for posterity. His philosophies were published as "Golden Rules of Business Success," which emphasized the importance of organization, vigilance, and character judgment to merchants. The "Golden Rules" was one of the world’s earliest books on business and leadership, and continues to be published in various forms [PDF] to this day.

5. THE COACH WHO MIXED CONTROL WITH COMPASSION


Few names are as revered in the sports world as football coach Vince Lombardi, often remembered as a tough-talking, no-nonsense authority figure. His on-field success is indisputable—he led his Green Bay Packers to five NFL championships in nine years—and was frequently attributed to his "tough disciplinarian" demeanor and rigorous practice habits. But while Lombardi was no stranger to a blistering harangue, he was also known among colleagues to espouse empathy and tolerance. One example: multiple former players agree that the coach fully accepted gay players on his teams and ensured they were treated with respect by other players and coaches. In fact, despite his stone-faced reputation, this 2014 Vice column suggests that "Lombardi's emotional connection with his players wasn't just a part of [his] character, but one of the major reasons for his success as coach."

6. THE PURITAN MAMA WHO KEPT THE PRESSES PRINTING

Ann Smith Franklin isn’t even the most famous person in her family—that would be her brother-in-law, founding father Benjamin—but her story is fascinating nonetheless. Along with her husband, James, Ann helped establish the first independent newspaper in New England, The New England Courant. After the Franklins were accused of libel (and James briefly imprisoned) for daring to criticize the government and religion, they decamped to Rhode Island and began printing a short-lived weekly newspaper, the Rhode Island Gazette. James's death in 1735 left Ann as the sole provider to their four children. She continued to operate the printing press, and when small jobs proved to be an insufficient way to earn money, she boldly negotiated a contract to become the official printer for the Rhode Island general assembly. She taught her children the printing business, and with her son James Jr., originated the Newport Mercury newspaper, a descendant of which is still published today. Ann Franklin eventually outlived all of her children, and in 1762 became the sole editor and publisher of the Mercury, and the first American woman to run a newspaper on her own.

7. THE FLIGHT DIRECTOR WHO REFUSED TO FAIL


By NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

After serving as an Air Force pilot in the Korean War, Eugene Kranz was a key player in NASA’s fledgling Space Task Group. Kranz helped develop procedures for early space flights and was quickly promoted to Flight Director in 1964, in which capacity he oversaw a number of historic missions, including the Apollo 11 lunar landing in 1969.

In response to the Apollo 1 disaster, he issued the "Kranz Dictum," which challenged his entire team to be "tough and competent," and more responsible for their actions. But it was the nearly disastrous Apollo 13 mission which truly cemented his reputation as a leader for the ages. Facing enormous pressure and uncertainty, Kranz kept his cool and refused to panic as he worked to save the lives of the three astronauts aboard—"Let’s solve the problem, but let’s not make it any worse by guessing."

8. THE TECH GURU WHO DRASTICALLY RAISED SALARIES

Dan Price, founder, and CEO of tech startup Gravity Payments, made headlines in April 2015 when he announced that he was raising the minimum wage at his company to $70,000 per year. After years of trying to keep salary costs low, Price had a change of heart due to conversations with struggling employees, as well as a 2010 study by Daniel Kahneman that found personal emotional well-being was higher in employees making $75,000 per year. He helped fund these raises by cutting his own salary, from $1.1 million yearly to the same $70,000 figure. The story went viral, and Price found himself simultaneously praised and pilloried in the media (unsurprisingly, Rush Limbaugh predicted the "socialist" decision would be a failure). But a year and a half later, Gravity’s revenue keeps growing and Price recently bolstered his reduced salary by inking a $500,000 book deal.

9. THE PRODUCER WHO'S A PHONE CALL AWAY


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Fans of Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder know Shonda Rhimes as an award-winning writer and producer, beloved for her sharp dialogue and diverse, multidimensional characters. But within the industry, she’s also widely praised for her availability and fierce allegiance to her colleagues. She’s known for her "No Assholes" policy: she’s highly selective about who she employs, and often works with a recurring cast that’s been described as "a de facto repertory company." Her actors hugely appreciate Rhimes’ loyalty and direct approach. Jessica Capshaw, who plays Dr. Arizona Robbins on Grey's Anatomy, has said, "The most important thing for me has been having proximity to a boss that cares when you have thoughts or concerns or questions and addresses them in a mindful and kind and generous way … Shonda is current with us. She's an email or a phone call away."

7 Quick Tips for Disinfecting Your Home the Smart Way

Frequent cleaning of high-traffic areas can reduce the spread of illness in your home.
Frequent cleaning of high-traffic areas can reduce the spread of illness in your home.
BrianAJackson/iStock via Getty Images

With many people spending more time—or virtually all of their time—indoors, it’s natural for thoughts to turn to how to best clean surfaces that might help minimize the risk of spreading illness. Although researchers believe respiratory droplets are the primary way coronavirus is transmitted, preliminary data, which is not yet peer-reviewed, suggests the virus may remain on some surfaces for hours or days.

While scrubbing isn't a complex process, there are nonetheless some areas of your home you might be neglecting. Here’s how to best approach a household scrub, as well as identify and disinfect some common germ hot spots.

1. Pay attention to high-touch surfaces and clean them frequently.

High-touch surfaces are exactly what they sound like: Areas in the home that get handled and touched regularly. Think doorknobs, light switches, appliance handles, toilet handles, faucets, and remotes. And don’t forget laptops, keyboards, desks, and phones.

2. Don't just do a quick wipe down. Get the entire surface.

Taking a disinfecting wipe to the keyhole of a doorknob isn’t going to do you much good—it's important to really scrub all high-touch surfaces. Make sure you get every available surface area, including the plate behind the knob where fingers and hands often brush against it. When cleaning remotes, make sure you don't just scrub the buttons, but the space between them as well.

3. You can use soap and water.

While products claiming to kill 99.9 percent of germs are best in this scenario, there's another option if you're having a hard time tracking down those supplies—simply mix some dish soap in water. It won’t kill organisms, but it can remove them from the surface. (And while soap and water can work for high-touch surfaces throughout the home, you shouldn't use the solution on electronics like your remote or keyboard.)

If you’re looking to kill germs, diluted bleach (four teaspoons to one quart of water) and 70 percent alcohol solutions work well. But it's important to note that bleach and other cleaners can harm certain surfaces. So be sure to do your research and make sure the product you're using won't cause any damage before you start scrubbing.

4. Take laundry precautions.

If you’re trying to be extra-vigilant about the spread of germs in the house, you should consider washing clothes at the highest possible temperature and disinfecting laundry bins. It’s also advisable to use disposable laundry bags.

5. Remove your shoes before entering the house.

This step is more preventative, but it’s a simple way to keep from tracking in contaminants. Remove your shoes before going inside and leave them near the door. It's also a good idea to clean floor surfaces with disinfecting mop cloths, but be sure anything you use is safe for the finished surface. Cleaners like bleach can discolor certain materials.

6. Don't forget to clean your car.

Even people vigilant about cleaning their home can neglect their car interior. Since you’re constantly touching virtually every surface, be sure to wipe everything down regularly, including the steering wheel and door handles. If you have a leather interior, there are auto wipes available for those surfaces. And before you go wipe down any touchscreens, be sure to check your owner’s manual to see if they require any special microfiber cloth.

7. Give your debit cards a wipe.

It’s a good idea to disinfect credit or debit cards that follow you around on shopping excursions. As with all high-touch objects, be sure to wipe them down every day.

[h/t New York Times]

15 Facts About John Brown, the Real-Life Abolitionist at the Center of The Good Lord Bird

John Brown, circa 1846.
John Brown, circa 1846.
Augustus Washington/Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Abolitionist John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry on October 16, 1859, was meant to start an armed slave revolt, and ultimately end slavery. Though Brown succeeded in taking over the federal armory, the revolt never came to pass—and Brown paid for the escapade with his life.

In the more than 160 years since that raid, John Brown has been called a hero, a madman, a martyr, and a terrorist. Now Showtime is exploring his legacy with an adaption of James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird. Like the novel it’s based on, the miniseries—which stars Ethan Hawke—will cover the exploits of Brown and his allies. Here's what you should know about John Brown before you watch.

1. John Brown was born into an abolitionist family on May 9, 1800.

John Brown was born to Owen and Ruth Mills Brown in Torrington, Connecticut, on May 9, 1800. After his family relocated to Hudson, Ohio (where John was raised), their new home would become an Underground Railroad station. Owen would go on to co-found the Western Reserve Anti-Slavery Society and was a trustee at the Oberlin Collegiate Institute, one of the first American colleges to admit black (and female) students.

2. John Brown declared bankruptcy at age 42.

At 16, Brown went to school with the hope of becoming a minister, but eventually left the school and, like his father, became a tanner. He also dabbled in surveying, canal-building, and the wool trade. In 1835, he bought land in northeastern Ohio. Thanks partly the financial panic of 1837, Brown couldn’t satisfy his creditors and had to declare bankruptcy in 1842. He later tried peddling American wool abroad in Europe, where he was forced to sell it at severely reduced prices. This opened the door for multiple lawsuits when Brown returned to America.

3. John Brown's Pennsylvania home was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

The John Brown Tannery Site in Pennsylvania
The John Brown Tannery Site in Pennsylvania.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Sometime around 1825, Brown moved himself and his family to Guys Mills, Pennsylvania, where he set up a tannery and built a house and a barn with a hidden room that was used by slaves on the run. Brown reportedly helped 2500 slaves during his time in Pennsylvania; the building was destroyed in 1907 [PDF], but the site, which is now a museum that is open to the public, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Brown moved his family back to Ohio in 1836.

4. After Elijah Lovejoy's murder, John Brown pledged to end slavery.

Elijah Lovejoy was a journalist and the editor of the St. Louis/Alton Observer, a staunchly anti-slavery newspaper. His editorials enraged those who defended slavery, and in 1837, Lovejoy was killed when a mob attacked the newspaper’s headquarters.

The incident lit a fire under Brown. When he was told about Lovejoy’s murder at an abolitionist prayer meeting in Hudson, Brown—a deeply religious man—stood up and raised his right hand, saying “Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery."

5. John Brown moved to the Kansas Territory after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

In 1854, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which decreed that it would be the people of Kansas and Nebraska who would decide if their territories would be free states or slave states. New England abolitionists hoping to convert the Kansas Territory into a Free State moved there in droves and founded the city of Lawrence. By the end of 1855, John Brown had also relocated to Kansas, along with six of his sons and his son-in-law. Opposing the newcomers were slavery supporters who had also arrived in large numbers.

6. John Brown’s supporters killed five pro-slavery men at the 1856 Pottawatomie Massacre.

A John Brown mural by John Steuart Curry
A John Brown mural by John Steuart Curry.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

On May 21, 1856, Lawrence was sacked by pro-slavery forces. The next day, Charles Sumner, an anti-slavery Senator from Massachusetts, was beaten with a cane by Representative Preston Brooks on the Senate floor until he lost consciousness. (A few days earlier, Sumner had insulted Democratic senators Stephen Douglas and Andrew Butler in his "Crime Against Kansas" speech; Brooks was a representative from Butler’s state of South Carolina.)

In response to those events, Brown led a group of abolitionists into a pro-slavery settlement by the Pottawatomie Creek on the night of May 24. On Brown’s orders, five slavery sympathizers were forced out of their houses and killed with broadswords.

Newspapers across the country denounced the attack—and John Brown in particular. But that didn't dissuade him: Before his final departure from Kansas in 1859, Brown participated in many other battles across the region. He lost a son, Frederick Brown, in the fighting.

7. John Brown led a party of liberated slaves all the way from Missouri to Michigan.

In December 1858, John Brown crossed the Kansas border and entered the slave state of Missouri. Once there, he and his allies freed 11 slaves and led them all the way to Detroit, Michigan, covering a distance of more than 1000 miles. (One of the liberated women gave birth en route.) Brown’s men had killed a slaveholder during their Missouri raid, so President James Buchanan put a $250 bounty on the famed abolitionist. That didn’t stop Brown, who got to watch the people he’d helped free board a ferry and slip away into Canada.

8. John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry was meant to instigate a nationwide slave uprising.

On October 16, 1859, Brown and 18 men—including five African Americans—seized control of a U.S. armory in the Jefferson County, Virginia (today part of West Virginia) town of Harpers Ferry. The facility had around 100,000 weapons stockpiled there by the late 1850s. Brown hoped his actions would inspire a large-scale slave rebellion, with enslaved peoples rushing to collect free guns, but the insurrection never came.

9. Robert E. Lee played a part in John Brown’s arrest.

Artist Thomas Hovenden depicts John Brown after his capture.
Artist Thomas Hovenden depicts John Brown after his capture.
The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

Shortly after Brown took Harpers Ferry, the area was surrounded by local militias. On the orders of President Buchanan, Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee entered the fray with a detachment of U.S. Marines. The combined might of regional and federal forces proved too much for Brown, who was captured in the Harpers Ferry engine house on October 18, 1859. Ten of Brown's men died, including two more of his sons.

10. John Brown was put on trial a week after his capture.

After his capture, Brown—along with Aaron Stevens, Edwin Coppoc, Shields Green, and John Copeland—was put on trial. When asked if the defendants had counsel, Brown responded:

"Virginians, I did not ask for any quarter at the time I was taken. I did not ask to have my life spared. The Governor of the State of Virginia tendered me his assurance that I should have a fair trial: but, under no circumstances whatever will I be able to have a fair trial. If you seek my blood, you can have it at any moment, without this mockery of a trial. I have had no counsel: I have not been able to advise with anyone ... I am ready for my fate. I do not ask a trial. I beg for no mockery of a trial—no insult—nothing but that which conscience gives, or cowardice would drive you to practice. I ask again to be excused from the mockery of a trial."

Brown would go on to plead not guilty. Just days later, he was found “guilty of treason, and conspiring and advising with slaves and others to rebel, and murder in the first degree” and was sentenced to hang.

11. John Brown made a grim prophecy on the morning of his death.

On the morning of December 2, 1859, Brown passed his jailor a note that read, “I … am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away, but with blood.” He was hanged later that day.

12. Victor Hugo defended John Brown.

Victor Hugo—the author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, who was also an abolitionist—penned an open letter on John Brown’s behalf in 1859. Desperate to see him pardoned, Hugo wrote, “I fall on my knees, weeping before the great starry banner of the New World … I implore the illustrious American Republic, sister of the French Republic, to see to the safety of the universal moral law, to save John Brown.” Hugo’s appeals were of no use. The letter was dated December 2—the day Brown was hanged.

13. Abraham Lincoln commented on John Brown's death.

Abraham Lincoln, who was then in Kansas, said, “Old John Brown has been executed for treason against a State. We cannot object, even though he agreed with us in thinking slavery wrong. That cannot excuse violence, bloodshed and treason. It could avail him nothing that he might think himself right.”

14. John Brown was buried in North Elba, New York.

John Brown's gravesite in New York
John Brown's gravesite in New York.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1849, Brown had purchased 244 acres of property from Gerrit Smith, a wealthy abolitionist, in North Elba, New York. The property was near Timbuctoo, a 120,000-acre settlement that Smith had started in 1846 to give African American families the property they needed in order to vote (at that time, state law required black residents to own $250 worth of property to cast a vote). Brown had promised Smith that he would assist his new neighbors in cultivating the mountainous terrain.

When Brown was executed, his family interred the body at their North Elba farm—which is now a New York State Historic Site.

15. The tribute song "John Brown's Body" shares its melody with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

It didn’t take long for Brown to become a martyr. Early in the 1860s, the basic melody of “Say Brothers Will You Meet Us,” a popular camp hymn, was fitted with new lyrics about the slain abolitionist. Titled “John Brown’s Body,” the song spread like wildfire in the north—despite having some lines that were deemed unsavory. Julia Ward Howe took the melody and gave it yet another set of lyrics. Thus was born “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” a Union marching anthem that's still widely known today.

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