CEO'sWall Street has a funny view of the world: Its short-term mind-set sets the stage for major dysfunction in corporate America. Most of us average joes wouldn't tolerate the level of crazy behavior displayed in corporate America. In fact, most of us would consider it downright loony.

I recently examined some unusual CEO behavior, and compared it to some serious mental disorders. Some in the corporate world -- those indoctrinated to that short-term profit, "me-only" mind-set -- don't find that behavior all that weird. They're perfectly willing to look the other way, accepting that wild parties on the company's dime or $1,400 wastebaskets are pretty "normal" things to desire, and do everything in one's power to attain.

There are, however, CEOs who defy the power-hungry stereotype. Their behavior is the kind that makes Wall Street really uncomfortable.

Leaders Who, Thankfully, Don't Exhibit "Normal" Behavior

The following CEOs have exhibited actions that truly are exceptional -- the "abnormal" anomalies, if you will. These are leaders who can comprehend the pain of pink slips and the stress of being uninsured. They exhibit an important feature that too many corporate CEOs seem to lack: empathy.

CostcoCostco's employee-centric chief: Costco (COST) CEO Jim Sinegal champions major benefits like health care for his company's employees, despite Wall Street's pressures to juice up short-term profit by slashing such "costs." Here's a leader who believes positive worker treatment will "build a company that's going to be here 50 and 60 years from now." Novel, eh? Not only that, he answers his own phone.


StarbucksThe coffee king who shells out for benefits: Starbucks (SBUX) CEO Howard Schultz is another stickler for health-care benefits. Starbucks' historical tendency to shell out more money for employee health care than for actual coffee is a long-standing fascinating factoid. In addition, Schultz resisted pressure from one shareholder who thought Starbucks' financial struggles years back would be the perfect time to cut those hideous health-care expenses. (Quick, for the love of all that's holy on Wall Street, somebody stage an intervention!) The shareholder eventually reduced his position in the do-good company.


Whole FoodsThe grocer who shredded his own paycheck: In 2007, Whole Foods Market (WFM) CEO John Mackey made one heck of an announcement. He said, "The tremendous success of Whole Foods Market has provided me with far more money than I ever dreamed I'd have and far more than is necessary for either my financial security or personal happiness.... I am now 53 years old and I have reached a place in my life where I no longer want to work for money, but simply for the joy of the work itself and to better answer the call to service that I feel so clearly in my own heart." He slashed his base salary to $1.


Lincoln ElectricLincoln's layoff "lunacy": Cleveland, Ohio-based industrial manufacturing company Lincoln Electric (LECO) has had a "no layoff" policy since 1948. That's right, even during the recent economically challenged, layoff-centric years as huge companies mercilessly hacked at their workforces, CEO John Stropki stood by his word. Nuts, right?


Giving Credit Where It's Truly Due

Wall Street's drive for short-term profits too often gives CEOs strong incentives to do exactly the wrong thing for their companies' long-term stability, and that's truly sad.

True long-term investors must start giving more credit to those who seem to try to do the right thing, even while withstanding incredible pressure to do otherwise. CEOs like these represent a far better financial future for all of us.

Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax owns shares of Starbucks and Whole Foods Market. The Motley Fool owns shares of Starbucks, Whole Foods Market, and Costco Wholesale. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Costco Wholesale, Starbucks, and Whole Foods Market.


Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Behavioral Finance

Why do investors make the decisions that they do?

View Course »

Bonds for Beginners

Learn about fixed income investments.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

17 Comments

Filter by:
americandoo

"TIME FOR BIG INVESTORS TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE LEAD AMERICA BY
INVESTING IN AMERICA" "WHEN YOU INVEST IN AMERICA YOU INVEST IN YOUR CHILDREN'S
FUTURE"

"INVEST IN A LARGE PROJECT THAT WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR THE FUTURE"
Similar to this idea; In past history when the USA needed a Moral Boost to our
Country we built such things as; The Largest Bridges, Dams, Statue Of Liberty,
Worlds Largest Futuristic Fair, Landed on the Moon etc.

It is overdue for us and time for us to build the Largest & Best Futuristic
CITY IN THE WORLD, using ALL OF OUR CUTTING EDGE TECHNOLOGY­.

Countries CUTTING EDGE TECHNOLOGY and BEYOND ALL OTHERS ! !

Find a location in the USA somewhere that has the space for our "FUTURE CITY
PROJECT"

Where Our Future City will Utilize all of the Newest and Cutting edge combined
technology in the world to build our City using entirely GREEN energy with ZERO
POLLUTION ! ! !

Our City Could Have A NEW VERSION OF THE STATUE OF LIBERTY, Holding
the torch in one hand and our GREEN PLANET EARTH in her other hand, her head
raised high looking Up at the sky.

This would make a GREAT FILM based
on a True Story with the help of A TEAM OF BIG MONEY INVESTORS ! ! !

Use your Imaginatio­n think how; GREAT THIS WOULD BE FOR AMERICA & OUR
ECONOMY ! ! ! !

"DREAM BIG...DO BIG"

Thank You, Respectful­ly, Michael V. Caldwell

August 05 2011 at 12:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jerald3739

These four executives are captains of successful companies and are to be congratulated for the concern they provide the employees. It is unfortunate that far too many other executives choose to financially and mentally destroy the lives of their employees in favor of $1400 waste baskets and othe exhorbitant perks.

August 02 2011 at 3:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
avdltd

And that's why I always shop at Costco instead of Sam's Club!

August 02 2011 at 12:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
msindt5

JOY TO THE WORLD,to serve is alive and well within the HEARTS of the bussiness world.

August 02 2011 at 6:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
canoh

Kudos to these CEOs who understand that a company is to provide profitability and jobs for the long-term, not just quarter-to-quarter results, as those on Wall St (who probably never worked a real job in their lives) try to dictate.

August 02 2011 at 3:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
premenos

That's wonderful that there are still CEOs out there with a heart. Humanity is not completely gone. I applaud these four gentlemen.

August 01 2011 at 11:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gary

Good for them it's about time some show some humanity in this world. Did any of them need bailout money

August 01 2011 at 8:31 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Larry

You're shamelessly tout three stocks you personally own (out of four mentioned). These stocks are Motley Fool recommended list. Isn't that something akin to stock manipulation? What's your target price for selling your stock for a profit? How many shares of each stock? Date you bought each stock? Price you paid for each stock and your level of profit and/or loss in each stock? That's the way to show if you're really squeaky clean.

August 01 2011 at 8:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tristanaderion

The article, if poorly written, does make a point. I am most impressed if Jim Sinegal actually does answer his own phone. The other more notable companies can probably afford it. The last one I would have to research. If in fact whole foods and starbucks actually give their employee's benefits, even limited benefits for part timers that is better than none at all. I don't go to starbucks for a 4 dollar cup of coffee when I can get auto refills for 1.50 at my local greasy spoon. I don't shop at whole foods for the same reason. Go to the farmers market, cheaper and fresher. My point is, don't whine about it or applaud it. They are businessmen, its up to you how much they make and how much good they do with what you give them.

August 01 2011 at 8:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
clyogi

Your comments about Howard Schultz are not truthful. Starbucks could not care less about employees in its stores. In fact, it intentionally cuts hours so that store employees are ineligible for benefits. And what makes some of the commenters think that these guys haven't already made tens of millions of dollars from their stock while employing tens of thousands of employees at or near minimum wage.

August 01 2011 at 7:21 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to clyogi's comment
Greg

...and isn't it sad that for this article they had to dig this deep. Everyone has a price, however, and that's just human nature.

August 01 2011 at 8:12 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
gdwtchg

Yes that is true about cutting hours. I worked for Starbucks for 5 years and witnessed it firsthand throughout my city and after talking to others I found out that it was happening everywhere. You have to maintain 20 hours a week to keep your benefits, suddenly our staff increased and most baristas were getting 15 hours tops. Employees were begging each other and calling other stores to try and pick up shifts just to keep their benefits. It was sad considering this company touts how much they do for their employees. Another practice not talked about is clearing out of any employees that have wokred their way up to a decent wage and replacing them with a newbie at starting wage. You may have noticed that Sbux quality sure ain't what it used to be. Of course that particular practice is commonplace in corporate America today.

August 02 2011 at 11:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply