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With CEOs, you get what you pay for

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By Jim Rohrer

Although the title “CEO” contains only three letters, it has become a four-letter word. Almost all businesses have one, but not all deserve the scorn and disrespect the title has taken on lately. As with most things, the deeds of the very worst get a lot of publicity and tend to contaminate many innocent leaders who share the title, but not the dastardly deeds.

So put yourself on the board of a company seeking a new CEO. How would you fill the position with a leader of whom you could be proud? Let’s look at the job requirements. I believe you would seek someone who would do the following:

• Ensure the viability of the organization and an appropriate return to investors by making his/her financial numbers.

• Achieve these financial returns ethically.

• Lead the company’s people effectively, treating them with respect and dignity.

• Promote honest dealings with the company’s partners.

Jim Collins, in his bestselling study of why some businesses achieve greatness while most don’t, looks at the qualities of the chief executive officers of the great companies. These companies have what he calls “level 5 leaders” — that is, “leaders who have both personal humility and professional will. They tend not to be rock stars, but individuals who are diligent and hardworking with more bite than bark.” These leaders tend to credit others for the company success, rather than taking the credit themselves.

So the question is, how do you attract and hire such a leader? If your goal is to have a successful company that takes on a balanced agenda like the one we describe above, it’s doubtful that you would seek a brash and totally self-centered individual, then build a compensation plan that offers obscene amounts of wealth if they deliver some huge financial result. In fact, such a compensation plan would almost ensure that it would just be a matter of time until you were reading unpleasant headlines about your company and its integrity issues.

If the leader you are recruiting is demanding a compensation plan that seems excessive, you probably have the wrong person. Rather, look for someone who is seeking the following:

• Work that they love and enjoy.

• A positive relationship with the people with whom they work.

• The satisfaction of knowing that the work they are doing is important.

• A reasonable compensation plan.

Getting the right leader in place follows the rule my mother taught me a long time ago: Too much of anything is not good; balance is always a better alternative.

Jim Rohrer of Evergreen is a business veteran who has succeeded in big, small and medium-size businesses.