One Great Leadership Lesson From Two CEOs with Massively Different Results

One Great Leadership Lesson From Two CEOs with Massively Different Results

Ever wonder why there is a growing divide between the C-suite and first-line management? Between corporate America and Millennials? Between an engaged work force and an unengaged work force?

Take Marissa Mayer, current CEO of Yahoo, for instance. Mayer will leave with a $186 million payout as a result of the upcoming transaction between Verizon and Yahoo. If you’re anything like me, you have a hard time getting your head around this kind of compensation — much less when the results of her work have been below average. Instead of “creating a better Yahoo” (as she once said), she created an enormous payday for herself by slashing thousands of jobs over five years and making plenty of questionable managerial decisions.

Now, I don’t pretend that being the CEO of a company like Yahoo is, was, or ever will be easy. She had a tough job. But when push comes to shove, the results don’t match the pay and the employee base is much less engaged than when she started.

Take an example on the flip side of the coin. Alan Mulally the former CEO of Ford took over when the company was on pace for a $17 Billion loss, 6 months away from bankruptcy, the stock was trading at $1 a share, and morale was as low as it could possibly get. When he left 7 years later, he had an exit package of roughly $300M. The difference in Mayer and Mulally is, he had a 97% approval rating, the company was operating at a $7.2B profit which translated into $12k per Ford employee on their profit sharing plan. He obviously deserves a lot of credit for this, but if you asked him he would probably diffuse it and give the credit to his people.

Just this week on the Follow My Lead podcast, Situational Leadership expert Sam Shriver said. “There will always be two types of leaders. People who seek the limelight, look for a big payday and make it all about them. Then there are those people where it’s never about them that professionals should be looking to emulate. Sure they are receiving financial rewards for their work (and they deserve them) but the people they interact with are without question, better off for coming into contact with them.” So it’s simple:

Most organizations that are truly successful have leaders that sincerely impact those they come into contact with

At the end of the day, leaders who get results the right way almost always have a more engaged workforce. Thus you get a circular effect where a more engaged workforce create better results and better results create a more engaged workforce. So what are some ways you can create better results while also creating a more engaged work force? Here are three.

1. Get the compensation correct.

A recent Glassdoor survey found the average pay ratio of a CEO to a median worker was 204 to 1. As someone who believes that everything rises and falls based on leadership, I don’t question the idea of people’s compensation being based on the value they provide. Having said that, there is no way a gap that large between the CEO and the median worker provides a positive culture or an engaged work force.

Take a real-life servant-leader example: Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya. He surprised over 2,000 full-time employees by giving them collectively as much as 10 percent ownership in the company.

The goal isn’t equal pay for all employees. The goal is to have a compensation structure allowing everyone who produces a profitable business to share in the fruits it provides.

2. Know what fills people up.

Ask your people the most important question you can: What fills you up from a career perspective?

Answers may include things like interacting with clients, brainstorming new ideas, making customers happy, and learning new skills. I could go on and on, but the important thing is you have a conversation with your people to know what fulfills them at work.

Once you know these things, then and only then can you create a personal development plan filled with opportunities to help them become the best versions of themselves.

3. Make your organization an extension of college.

In the traditional human resources world, leaders were hired for talent and current skill. In today’s business environment, those things remain important — but there are other factors to consider. The world is changing quickly, and your organization has to realize its role in providing ongoing opportunities for learning and development.

Organizations that invest in their people not only get better results but they also have a more engaged work force. Study after study has proved it.

It’s my hope the next $300M or $186 million payday is for you, because you’ve used these three lessons — and are getting great results because of a highly engaged workforce.

This article originally appeared on

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and host of the Follow My Lead Podcast. He is also the author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader, a contributing editor on, and is passionate about the development of modern professionals. You follow him on instagram @johngeades.