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I think to some degree one of the strengths of the high tech industry is that people are actually willing to tell you things. When I went to Novell, I didn't know how to be a CEO, so I went in and I called all sorts of CEOs I knew. I called in a favor. I wanted to come by and listen to them tell me what it's like to be a CEO.
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The first lesson my kids got about the ocean was to respect it. You can never turn your back on the ocean when you're dealing with tides and currents - factors beyond your control. You have to be the CEO of your family on the water. CEO stands for 'constant eyes on,' and it's something I never forget.
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Sure I am a religious man who is also passionate about conserving the environment. But I am also a CEO, with all the bad habits and attitudes that are natural to the species. . . . I am still naturally self-interested, overconfident, full of pride, and eager to control a meeting as any CEO in America. Every day, I struggle with my ego.
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As a CEO, you get sucked into dealing with all the tasks of being a CEO. There's a big meeting, a big discussion, and you get into all the big issues, which is your job. But what CEOs often lose sight of is that it's all about the people who work for you. For every 1,000 decisions, 999 were being made when I was not in the room.
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Too often, executive compensation in the U.S. is ridiculously out of line with performance. That won't change, moreover, because the deck is stacked against investors when it comes to the CEO's pay. The upshot is that a mediocre-or-worse CEO - aided by his handpicked VP of human relations and a consultant from the ever-accommodating firm of Ratchet, Ratchet and Bingo - all too often receives gobs of money from an ill-designed compensation arrangement.
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That's a good question. I think there should be many other women CEO s. It feels natural to be a CEO of WellPoint, and part of the reason may be that women may be drawn to healthcare as a profession. Women make 70 percent of all healthcare decisions. Women are currently available-ready, willing, and able-to be CEOs of major Fortune 50 or 500 companies. And I expect them to emerge as such over the days, weeks, and months ahead.
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To be a CEO is a calling. You should not do it because it is a job. It is a calling, and you have got to be involved in it with your head, heart and hands. Your heart has got to be in the job; you got to love what you do; it consumes you. And if you are not willing to get into the CEO job that way, there is no point getting into it.
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Somebody asked me 'what's the job of a CEO', and there's a number of things a CEO does. What you mostly do is articulate the vision, develop the strategy, and you gotta hire people to fit the culture. If you do those three things, you basically have a company. And that company will hopefully be successful, if you have the right vision, the right strategy, and good people.
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The thing that's confusing for investors is that founders don't know how to be CEO. I didn't know how to do the job when I was a CEO. Founder CEOs don't know how to be CEOs, but it doesn't mean they can't learn. The question is... can the founder learn that job and can they tolerate all mistakes they will make doing it?
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Contrast 1968, when the CEO of General Motors took home, in pay and benefits, about sixty-six times the amount paid to a typical GM worker. Today the CEO of Wal-Mart earns nine hundred times the wages of his average employee. Indeed, the wealth of the Wal-Mart founder's family in 2005 was estimated at about the same ($90 billion) as that of the bottom 40% of the US population: 120 million people.
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I see a role for specialized knowledge, but I think that it's important for there to be an arena where it is shared, where it is communicated. It's not that somebody shouldn't have specialized knowledge. The ability to dig a trench and lay a cable is a kind of specialized knowledge. Farmers have specialized knowledge, too. The question is: what sort of knowledge is privileged in our societies? I don't think that a CEO is more valuable to society and ought to be paid ten million dollars a year, while farmers and laborers starve. The range of what is valued has become so extreme that one lot of people have captured it and left three-quarters of the world to live in unthinkable poverty, because their work is not valued. What would happen if the sweepers of the city went on strike or the sewage system didn't work? A CEO wouldn't be able to deal with his own shit.
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