Leaders and Money

On March 18th the Wall Street Journal published the most recent figures on CEO pay.


  • In 2018 most CEOs snagged a hefty pay raise. Median compensation for 132 chief executives of S&P 500 companies was $12.4 million. This was up from $11.7 million in 2017.
  • The median year to year increase for CEOs was 6.4% – even though most companies had shareholder returns that were decidedly less than stellar.
  • During the same period, wages for those the Journal describes as “ordinary workers” also rose. However, they didn’t rise nearly as much. Average hourly pay for nonsupervisory workers was up 3.5 % from a year earlier.   
  • One of the most highly paid of corporate leaders was Robert Iger, Disney’s famously successful CEO saw his paycheck rise 80% – from $36 million in 2017 to $66 million in 2018.

Nor are private sector leaders a breed apart. Many if not most prominent public sector leaders are similarly wealthy, which similarly separates them from those they lead.

  • Vladimir Putin is worth an estimated 200 billion dollars
  • Donald Trump is worth an estimated 3 billion dollars
  • Robert Mugabe is worth an estimated 1 billion dollars
  • Emmanuel Macron is worth an estimated 31 million dollars

Given what almost always is an enormous disparity in wealth between leaders and their followers, one might think that some leaders would lead on precisely this issue. That they would voluntarily reduce their income in order to level the playing field at least somewhat. In order to reduce at least somewhat the yawning gap in financial assets between them, the privileged few, and everyone else, the unprivileged many.

Since the financial crisis, one of the most insidious sources of friction worldwide is the divide between those who are rich, especially those who are exceedingly rich, and those who are not. Ironically, it is precisely on this issue that good leadership is lacking. Not just leadership as public policy. But leadership as personal commitment. Leadership as role modeling. Leadership by example – in this case by taking a sizable cut in take home pay.     

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