In early February 2016, the share price of LinkedIn (LNKD) tanked over 40 percent. The company is known for compensating employees with generous stock options, and many employees have made a lot of money as a result. With such a share price drop, it affects employees' options, possibly making them worthless. It's no fun to get a big cut in compensation, and it might make some employees consider leaving.
The company's CEO, Jeff Weiner, who has been selected as "America's No. 1 CEO," has exhibited his exemplary leadership once again--and everyone should know about it.
There is so much negative publicity of CEOs and claims they are exploitative, rapacious, and obscenely overpaid. In fact, it's a big theme of certain presidential candidates. The exhortation "You didn't build that!" is an accusation that entrepreneurs, business owners, and CEOs, are parasites on the workers. Somehow there was wealth in the world, apparently possessed by "the workers," and these business leaders take it, and live off everyone else.
The reality is that to be a leader of a Fortune 500 company takes an exceedingly rare combination of intelligence, perseverance, courage, skills, and incredibly hard work. Few people are qualified, there is a shortage of them, and that is one reason they are highly paid.
But the fundamental reason they are paid so much is that they create shareholder value. They make the right decisions, either directly or via the teams they organize and manage.
A trait that makes an exceptional CEO, a real leader, is an intransigent commitment to justice. An application of justice is the recognition of the value that employees bring to the success of the organization--that it isn't just the CEO. A real leader knows not only what he contributed but what the employees contributed, as well, and acts accordingly.
Furthermore, a true leader recognizes his special status. He is ultimately responsible for everything that occurs in the organization. True, he is usually one of the main beneficiaries of its successes. To put it bluntly, he makes a killing when things go well. He also knows he has as much responsibility as he has power.
We like our leaders to be aligned with us, to have skin in the game, to bleed when we are bleeding. We know they don't have to, and that's the point. So when they do, we notice, we admire, and we renew our commitment to them.
Leaders empower us to do what we might not otherwise be able to do. That is why leaders are so important. In the context of work, they give us places to create something valuable and to get rewarded for it--financially and, hopefully, also spiritually. Most of us can do better work, working for a leader.
We like it when our leaders realize why were are following--that we're trading with them. Please respect us, in that way.
Leaders don't exploit. That's why the attacks on CEOs, etc., is unfair. Leaders trade with their employees. They seek mutuality. They seek justice. Sometimes, they even go beyond being just and are magnanimous. Such is the case with the CEO of LinkedIn.
Today it was reported that Jeff Weiner gave up his $14 million stock grant, asking it to be instead allocated to the employee stock pool. That's a man who respects his employees.