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Monday, June 18, 2018

Why They Get the Big Bucks

Recently another study surfaced of the pay disparity between CEOs and their team members. The writer’s objective, I imagine, is to prick our consciences that this inequality should cause us to rise up and…well, that’s where it gets complicated. In the mind of the Guardian journalist, the inequity needs more balance. (I wonder how many of these writers prance into the executive suites of their highest paid leaders and tell them face-to-face how unfair the pay scale is at their company? Let me guess. Not many.)

I confess that I, too, get startled at some of the remarkable pay and bonus structures of business leaders. But I also get frustrated at watching inefficient government employees take home large sums and then retire in comfort. Let’s face it. Life is not fair.

Now that we’ve cleared THAT up, let’s journey into why high paid CEOs get the big bucks. Actually, for the same reasons that those overpaid athletes get their moolah. Unique talent. They have capabilities the rest of us don’t have.

Like what, you ask? Elena Botelho is a partner at a leadership advisory firm based here in Chicago It’s called ghSmart. She also coauthored the book, The CEO Next Door: The Four Behaviors that Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders.

Elena was one of three sharp experts that Fast Company magazine relied on to capture five essential skills it takes to be a CEO. Along with her partner Kim Powell, Elena connected with more than 2,600 CEOs and C-suite executives to draw conclusions about the traits found in their book.

But as I mentioned, Fast Company compared their notes with two other experts to come up with “the five.” Executive coach Rhett Power was one. The third voice belonged to Halelly Azulay, who founded a Los Angeles-based leadership firm.

And here’s a brief summary of what the three determined were among the most essential skills to be effective—along with my comments.

  1. Risk tolerance. Note these are calculated risks. Not wild-eyed dreams. 
  2. Vision. Well, if this was missing, I would have wondered about the experts' credibility. In my estimation, not to be unkind, but a CEO without vision is a very expensive glorified manager. Vision is what opens the door to the future!
  3. Reliability and Results Orientation. Live by your word and focus on results. If the CEO only has excuses, find another CEO. 
  4. Adaptability. Botelho has the right perspective here: “CEOs must be able to pivot and adjust to change.” Culture and innovation require this asset.
  5. Engaging for Impact. We expect charismatic leaders to do this. Can introverts inspire and transfer vision effectively? Yes...with clear communication, positive body language, among other factors.
So what’s missing? My friend and business coach John Blumberg would say, “core values!” And he’s right. I wonder how often the “three experts” meet with these top level, highly paid, and greatly skilled leaders and ask…“What are your core values?” It would be good to know, eh? Many might fail the test!

I don’t begrudge the highly paid CEO. First off, all the pressure to run a successful enterprise sits on his or her lap. And when they fail, it’s a quick goodbye. Second, the most capable CEOs are difficult to find. They don’t grow on business school trees. Third, they are not easy to replace. Finding a new leader with “the right stuff” can take months. And fourth, competition for talent is what drives the price up.

One final reason not to begrudge these top performers is because envy does not become us. And that’s usually what is going on behind the scenes in our souls.

1 Timothy 6:6-9 reads, “Serving God does make us very rich, if we are satisfied with what we have. We brought nothing into the world, so we can take nothing out. …Those who want to become rich bring temptation to themselves and are caught in a trap. They want many foolish and harmful things that ruin and destroy people.” (NCV)

So lead on, great CEOs! Just remember me with my cup out when you pass by.

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