Hi, I'm Tom Gardner, CEO of the Motley Fool, here to offer my 120 on how to find a great leader to invest in, or to work for.
Turns out, if you look at the survey data in America, most people don't like CEOs. Most people hate people like me, and I can understand why.
After all, CEOs -- particularly of the last 10 years -- have shown a lot more interest in their financial pay package than in the health and happiness and service to their primary constituents at a business (their employees, their customers, and their shareholders), and that's an outright disgrace.
Most CEOs should be forced to keep most of their compensation in escrow, not received until after they have left the company, to prove that that organization benefited from their leadership. So how do you look for great leaders? How do you look for the sort of people that are looking to build success over a long period of time and not just the four years they're getting their stock-option grant?
The answer is, look for the passion. Capital needs a purpose, and the greatest leaders are trying to use capital to fulfill a mission. Something they care deeply about. Something they've been studying, learning about, and trying to master for their entire lives.
Think of Jeff Bezos at Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) , think of Herb Kelleher at Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV ) , think of John Mackey at Whole Foods (Nasdaq: WFMI ) . Think of people who have given not just a few years, not just a decade, but that they're going to give decades, or have given decades, to a single organization and made that the priority in their professional life.
Those are the people who earn substantial amounts of money as an executive that really deserve it, because they've shown that they're there to grow an organization and all the constituents in that organization in a healthy way, over long periods of time.
Unfortunately, it is rare. But if you're looking for a great leader, look for somebody that really cares about that company, really cares about that industry, and has worked in it for years, decades, and has given their professional life to it.
It may sound obvious, but it isn't. Most CEOs are on a turnstile from one organization to the next, looking for better compensation. Don't invest in those. Invest in the Motley Fool type of leader, the one that really cares about where they work. I'm Tom Gardner ... Fool on!