The 12 Most Loved CEOs in the U.S.

Author: Todd Campbell | July 03, 2018

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CEOs with sky-high approval ratings

It’s not only about finding your dream job. It’s also about working for the best people. A bad boss is one of the biggest reasons for employee dissatisfaction, so evaluating management before accepting a job offer is important.

Fortunately, Glassdoor makes doing that easy. It asks employees to rank their CEOs, and then it crunches the numbers to determine who the best CEOs are in the country. While the average CEO only has a 69% approval rating, the approval rating for these 12 C-suite dynamos is 97% or higher in 2018. If you want a job you love, then working for these CEOs could be smart.

ALSO READ: 3 CEOs and Their Best Career Moves

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No. 12: Steven C. Bilt -- Smile Brands

Approval rating: 97%

Smile Brands was ranked by Glassdoor as one of the top 50 best places to work in 2018 and Bilt’s 97% approval rating suggests he deserves a lot of the credit for that honor.

Backed by venture capital firm Gryphon Investors, Bilt’s turned Smile Brands into a leading provider of support services to dentists nationwide. The company inks long-term contracts with dentists to handle their administrative burdens and currently, Smile Brands supports over 360 offices in 15 states under the Bright Now!® Dental, Monarch Dental®, Castle Dental®, A+ Dental Care, OneSmile Dental, and Johnson Family Dental banners.

What could help Bilt move up the ranking next year? Perhaps, a company match for their 401(k)-retirement plan. That was one of the very few cons that employees listed in their reviews.

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No. 11: Jim Kavanaugh -- World Wide Technology

Approval rating: 97%

Business technology can be confusing, but World Wide Technology helps its clients make sense of it all. For instance, the company’s Advanced Technology Center, the so-called “Silicon Valley in St. Louis,” is a research lab that’s focused on getting the most out of technology products from top brands, including Cisco Systems.

At the helm of World Wide Technology is co-founder and former professional soccer player, Jim Kavanaugh. It can be tough maintaining a positive culture as you get bigger, yet despite the company eclipsing $10 billion in sales, the company’s culture is cited by many of its employees as its biggest advantage.

One of World Wide Technology’s core values is humility, so I doubt Kavanaugh will let his top 12 finish go to his head.

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No. 10: Marc Benioff -- Salesforce.com

Approval rating: 97%

It’s not just employees that are happy with Marc Benioff's performance as Salesforce.com (NASDAQ: CRM) CEO. Investors are cheering him on, too. A pioneer of the software-as-a-service business model, Salesforce’s customer relationship management (CRM) products are some of the most popular software solutions used by businesses. 

Like Kavanaugh, Benioff’s high approval rating suggests you can be a successful leader even if you’re running a fast-growing company that answers to investors. Salesforce.com has ranked as one of Glassdoor’s top 50 places to work for eight consecutive years, and during that time, its sales and share price have both increased. Clearly, happy employees and happy investors go together at Salesforce. 

ALSO READ: 6 Reasons Salesforce Is Surging to All-Time Highs

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No. 9: Colleen Wegman -- Wegmans Food Markets

Approval rating: 97%

A top 50 best places to work for five consecutive years, Wegmans Food Markets boasts one of the most loyal customer bases in America. Colleen Wegman’s top approval rating shows employees are loyal, too. 

Wegman employs over 13,000 people, many of whom work in entry-level positions, yet even those just starting out seem to be fans. Across nearly 1,800 reviews, the company has a 4.1 star out of five-star rating on Glassdoor.

Flexible work schedules are a big attraction for many employees, but perhaps more fitting for the family-run company is that many workers applaud the company’s “family-oriented” management style.

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.Four young adults sitting against a wall using various smart devices.

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No. 8: Jeff Weiner -- LinkedIn

Approval rating: 97%

Acquisitions can be tough on employees, yet LinkedIn’s long-time CEO Jeff Weiner still gets high-marks from employees following Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) acquisition of LinkedIn in 2016.

Weiner, whose sat in the top-seat at LinkedIn since 2008, says being an effective leader requires a clarity of vision, a courage of conviction, and the ability to communicate effectively.

In a 2017 interview, he said this about leadership:

"You need people who can inspire. You need people who say, 'that's the mountain that were going to climb together and this is the reason we're going to climb it together and this is why it's never been done, and this is why we're going to be successful.”

Based on how positive his employees are about his performance as CEO, his leadership approach is spot on.

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Source: HEB

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No. 7: Charles C. Butt -- H E B

Approval rating: 98%

Butt began working at the 375-store grocery store chain his grandparents started when he was age 8, so the fact he refers to his 100,000 plus employees as “partners” instead of workers isn’t too surprising.

H-E-B’s “We’re in the people business. We just happen to sell groceries” motto is backed-up by the fact that it provides its partners with low-cost benefits and it embraces philanthropy. Its donated 5% of its pretax earnings to charity since the 1930s.

Putting people first has been good for business. H-E-B’s sales are estimated to be north of $23 billion, up from about $250 million in 1971. Butt describes himself as “an optimist at heart” and last year, he announced he’s donating $100 million to create an institute that will improve Texas’ schools by giving leadership training to principals.

ALSO READ: How to Invest in Grocery Stores

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No. 6: Corey Schiller and Asher Raphael -- Power Home Remodeling

Approval rating: 98%

It doesn’t appear this construction company needs to remodel its C-suite. Power Home Remodeling founders Corey Schiller and Asher Raphael' sixth best CEO ranking this year improves upon their 14th and 25th place ranking in 2017 and 2016, respectively.

About 90% of the company’s top positions are held by people who started working for it in entry level positions, and increasingly its ranks are being filled by veterans.

Schiller and Raphael's veterans initiative is a program specifically designed to hire and train veterans and as a result, veterans make up 11% of their new hires, up from 2% in the past.

A team-work culture and earnings potential are two common benefits to working at Power, according to employees, but according to some workers, the hours can make the work/life balance tough at times.

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No. 5: James Downing -- St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Approval rating: 98%

Downing runs St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Glassdoor’s No. 9 best place to work in 2018. A doctor, Downing’s prescription for employee happiness includes forums and monthly Town Hall meetings during which employees can exchange ideas with the hospital’s leaders.

St. Jude Children’s Hospital is the No. 1 pediatric cancer hospital in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report, so Downing’s mission is critical. A positive work environment that supports providing children with top-quality care is paramount and based on Downing’s high rating, his employees think he’s the best leader to help St. Jude save childrens' lives.

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No. 4: Lynsi Snyder -- In-N-Out Burger

Approval rating: 99%

Free burgers could be somewhat responsible for Lynsi Snyder’s 99% approval rating, but it’s not the only reason why she finished in the top five CEOs this year, up from her 36th place finish last year.

In addition to tasty burgers, employees say the burger chain’s compensation is top-notch.

In-N-Out Burger was started in California in 1948 by Snyder’s grandparents, Harry and Esther Snyder, and it owns its stores directly. Snyder says she feels like her employees are family and perhaps, that’s a big reason why 93% of employees would recommend working there to a friend.

About the only gripe employees list in their Glassdoor reviews is that there needs to be more locations so that there are more advancement opportunities. That’s a pretty good indication that people really enjoy working for Snyder. Overall, Glassdoor ranks In-N-Out Burger as the 4th best place to work in 2018.

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No. 3: Daniel Springer -- DocuSign

Approval rating: 99%

We’re not a paperless society yet, but DocuSign’s (NASDAQ: DOCU) trying. It’s been helping companies sign, send, and manage documents electronically since 2003, and today, its client list is 400,000 companies long.

Springer became CEO of DocuSign last year following a 10-year stint as CEO of Responsys, a company he was responsible for bringing public. After its IPO, Responsys was sold to Oracle for $1.6 billion in 2013.

In his short time as CEO, he’s already brought DocuSign public and he’s steering DocuSign at a time of significant growth. DocuSign’s sales jumped 37% year over year to $156 million in fiscal Q1 2019. International sales rose 52% year over year in the quarter, and although they only account for 17% of revenue, DocuSign’s management says the opportunity overseas is “huge.”

Companies like DocuSign that are experiencing fast-growth can experience growing-pains, especially after they go public, but it appears DocuSign’s employees are as happy as ever with their new CEO.

ALSO READ: Should You Buy DocuSign After Its Post-IPO Surge?

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No. 2: Michael Mahoney -- Boston Scientific

Approval rating: 99%

Caring is one of Boston Scientific‘s (NYSE: BSX) core values and perhaps that’s why so many employees are satisfied with their work/life balance and CEO Michael Mahoney’s leadership.

The med-tech company is a leading manufacturer of devices used in various disease indications, including heart disease, and the advantages of working there include “good benefits” and a positive “work/life balance."

Mahoney could struggle to attain a 100% employee approval rating, because employees don’t list many cons to working at Boston Scientific. Multiple layers of management do appear to be a concern for some, though, so tackling bureaucracy could be one place to start.

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No. 1: Eric Yuan -- Zoom Video Communications

Approval rating: 99%

Eric Yuan is Glassdoor’s top CEO for 2018, but it’s not Zoom’s only Glassdoor award. The company’s also Glassdoor’s 5th best place to work in 2018.

Remarkably, nearly every employee (96%!) recommends working for Zoom, and employees give Zoom a jaw-dropping 4.9 stars out of five stars for its culture and values, work/life balance, senior management, compensation and benefits, and career opportunities.

The secret of Yuan’s success? Happiness. It’s the focus of everything the company does.

Yuan founded Zoom in 2011 following collaboration technology roles at WebEx and Cisco Systems on the premise that collaboration tools like video conferencing and group messaging were ripe for disruption. It seems he was right. Zoom was awarded a peer insights customer’s choice award for meeting solutions by Gartner this year, too.

A flexible time-off policy, quarterly appreciation events for its employees, and a policy that encourages employees to take time from work to volunteer are among the reasons why employees are happy with Yuan. Based on Glassdoor reviews, the biggest knocks against Zoom are that it doesn’t match contributions to employee’s 401(k)-retirement plan and that it’s growing so fast that it’s tough to keep up.

According to Yuan, “If you keep your customers happy, everything else falls into place.” It seems that applies to employees too.

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The common thread connecting these top CEOs

An appreciation for employees and customers is common among these highly-rated CEOs. Treating employees like family, focusing on their happiness, and giving them a voice in the direction of the company are all important to winning the support CEOs need to be successful leaders.


Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Todd Campbell owns shares of Microsoft and Salesforce.com. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Salesforce.com. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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