The Best CEO I Know

Here at the Fool, we love awesome business managers. Our newsletter services go out of their way to find the best executive teams available; most of them make management quality an explicit selection criterion. Today, I'd like to shine a special spotlight on perhaps the greatest business leader on my radar: Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) CEO Reed Hastings.

When my friend and fellow Fool Rick Munarriz went looking for seven great managers this week, Hastings made the final cut. But I still think that Hastings stands head and shoulders above Rick's other luminaries.

Very few small-cap companies like Hastings' video rental outfit can challenge the establishment head-on and walk away a winner. But that’s exactly what Netflix did to business leaders like Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) and Blockbuster (Nasdaq: BBI  ) . Blockbuster had to regroup and reform under new leadership, and it's clearly losing in the DVD-by-mail niche to Netflix. As for Wal-Mart, the behemoth from Bentonville went a step further, simply handing over its customer list to Hastings.

With strong allies like Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) -- where Hastings sits on the board of directors -- and TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO  ) by his side, he's now effectively creating yet another new market in online feature-film viewing. This time, the competition looks stronger, including fellow Stock Advisor picks Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) . However, I still think Netflix holds the ultimate end-to-end vision of how to get the content from Hollywood to our living rooms.

In a guest article at Fortune, Hastings just spilled some more of his secret sauce. His background is in engineering, not management. He's been on the front lines with technology upstarts, and seen firsthand how a truly dedicated leader can inspire the troops. Reed was "blown away" by a CEO who collected and washed Hastings' hordes of dirty coffee mugs to reward sleepless nights of fruitful hacking. "If possible, I worked even harder over the next year," Hastings says. "And I knew I would walk through any wall for him."

That's the management style he's striving to emulate -- and that way, he can be surrounded by great employees with a wholehearted dedication to the job. And nothing less will do. According to Netflix's recruitment materials: "In many companies, adequate performance gets a modest raise. At Netflix, adequate performance gets a generous severance package."

It's not show "friends." It's show business. And nobody does it better than Reed Hastings.

Further Foolishness:

Wal-Mart Stores and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Netflix, Amazon.com, and Apple are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Netflix, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


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