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The Daily Walk of Shame series usually examines things that just aren't right in the world of finance and investing. Today, though, we're replacing the "Shame" with "Fame." Feel free to spread the love in the comments section below.
Today's subject: Last week, I called out cowardly, money-grubbing corporate leaders. But it's not always productive to heap scorn on the ne'er-do-wells of the business world. For a change of pace, let's spotlight a few of the folks doing things right instead.
Why you should be heartened: First, I should probably take a short walk of shame myself. In my zeal to call out gutless "leaders," I accidentally dissed Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX ) CEO Howard Schultz, accusing him of preserving his own pay while his company closed stores and laid off workers. Starbucks quickly let us know that Schultz actually did ask the board of directors to cut his salary in January. This year, it'll drop from around $1.2 million to less than $10,000.
I'd never heard about Schultz's request to reduce his pay, but I'm not too cowardly to admit when I've made a mistake. I wished that more corporate leaders would voluntarily share the pain of tough times with workers and shareholders, and accept responsibility when business goes south. Commendably, Schultz has done just that.
In truth, some corporations do have reasonable leaders who display passion for their jobs, rather than their paychecks. Several CEOs even take modest paychecks during prosperous times:
- Costco's (Nasdaq: COST ) CEO Jim Sinegal has always taken reasonable compensation; in 2008, his base salary was $350,000, and his cash bonus was $80,000.
- Despite his legendary investing skills and vast personal wealth, Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE: BRK-A ) Warren Buffett takes a very modest $100,000 per year from his company. He's also been an outspoken critic of outsized executive pay for undersized performance.
Several CEOs have actually taken pay cuts recently because of their companies' lack of performance. My Foolish colleague Selena Maranjian noted voluntary salary cuts at 373 struggling public companies, including Ford (NYSE: F ) , EMC (NYSE: EMC ) , and Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) . Still, that's a small number among the thousands of companies listed on public exchanges. Clearly, such heroic measures by CEOs -- or their boards of directors -- remain few and far between.
What now? Even those of us who consider ourselves capitalists must realize that out-and-out, me-first greed is lousy behavior from both a business and a personal standpoint. Proponents of conscious capitalism, for example, recognize that true leaders serve the enterprise and all its stakeholders, not the other way around. For conscious capitalists, business isn't a war, but a holistic web that can connect companies, workers, suppliers, customers, and shareholders for the betterment of all. And of course, solid, well-run companies with smart, ethical, passionate management are far more likely to succeed over the long haul.
If I missed the news of Howard Schultz's selfless salary cut, who knows what other heroic CEOs or boards have also escaped my notice? That's why I need your help, Fools. Do you know of a company whose management is behaving responsibly and protecting its stakeholders? We've already complained about the cowards; now's the perfect time to celebrate all the members of corporate America who strive to do the right thing. Please let us know about your executive heroes in the comment boxes below.