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Climbing the corporate ladder. (Hemera Technologies/Getty Images)
Climbing the corporate ladder. (Hemera Technologies/Getty Images)

Salaries Series

If you want to be an executive, start at the bottom, readers say Add to ...

From the point of view of our readers, if you’re aiming to be the chief executive officer of a company solely to boost your bank account, you’re going to fail miserably and destroy the business in the process. Many readers did not have the highest opinion of the CEO role, especially the big pay cheque that often accompanies it.

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Here are some of the best responses to a story in our salaries series on how much an executive makes:

The school’s not the thing

Being an executive is quite a skill, and business graduates aren’t necessarily the best candidates, many readers said.

“It is nice to ‘want’ to be an executive, but it is not as easy to become one as it is to want to be one,” George O wrote.

“If you want to be a chartered accountant, or a dentist, there is a specific education that is required and specific steps to take, then you can be one.

“Short of starting your own company (in which case there is no guarantee of money) there is no defined path to becoming an executive. Years ago most executives were chosen from within the company so you started out and kept working your way up. Nowadays many executives are chosen from outside the company and sometimes the industry and no one knows what will be the favoured route for selecting executives in 20 years.”

J. Michael suggested we stop trying to create CEOs through education and instead look for those with natural talent.

“Great CEOs are very rare. I think one of the reasons is that we seem to think we can spit them out of educational institutions – MBA and other university courses – however, nothing could be further from the truth. The best CEOs are naturals. We have great examples, such as dropouts like [Apple’s] Steve Jobs and [Microsoft’s] Bill Gates.

“I’ve watched once great companies time and time again gradually be destroyed by these decision makers from hell issued by universities.”

Where to begin

Talos IV said the great CEOs start at the bottom. “The best executives know the business from the ground up because they’ve worked their way up through the ranks in the business. People such as Frank Stronach (and all of his original team), for example, were tradesmen who apprenticed in their teens. People such as Steve Jobs learned electronics from his dad in their garage. Bill Gates was reading every line of code put out by Microsoft in the early years.

“There’s nothing more destructive to a company than when some wunderkind with an MBA drops in from ‘business school’ and starts asking how much executives make.”

Show me the money

The amount of money executives make compared with their skill level was debatable to many readers.

Dieter HH said if you’re solely looking to be a CEO for a fat pay cheque, you’ve got the wrong idea.

“If your first question is about salary you will never be one! Get a professional education but beware of the MBA trap, they are a dime a dozen. Then it is a matter of very hard work, initiative and assuming responsibility. Nobody will hand you the job on a platter, it must be earned, subject to cutthroat competition. You will need a deep understanding of your industry, human nature, deal with controversial and political issues. Investors will insist you make a profit and so on ...

“Can you sleep at night given your level of expected performance?”

CGB voiced an opinion many workers have: “Most execs I have seen are useless. Most managers are useless. Money for nothing.” Point taken.

Gary MacDonald13 chimed in with this quip: “Greed is such a good reason to choose a profession.”

RedNeckView put tongue in cheek and posted this comment: “I am looking for an executive at this very moment. We are paying a full dollar more than minimum wage. Two weeks vacation after 24 months. You will be making a full 10 per cent more than any other employee. Please send full details of your education and work experience. Must have your own luxury vehicle, three-piece suits and a cell phone. There is a small gas allowance for any travel over 50 miles from the office.”

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