More Than Money
Issue #41

Selections from 2001-2005

Table of Contents

“Excerpt From: How Money Influences Leadership: Perspectives from the Public, Private, and Nonprofit Sectors, MTM Issue 35”

“The larger the number for whom I worked, the more positively effective I became. Thus it became obvious that if I worked always and only for all humanity, I would be optimally effective.”
—-R. Buckminster Fuller in Critical Path(St. Martin’s Press, 1992)

I’ve talked to a number of people who have never been in the corporate game and who can’t understand why business leaders who have accumulated a certain amount of money aren’t able to say, “enough is enough,” and stop chasing ever-higher levels of net worth. But here’s the problem: sometimes, by the time a business leader reaches that point, he or she can be so caught up in the game and the competition for success, or can have so thoroughly absorbed the values of the corporate culture, that there is no personal sense of where the line is anymore. Individuals who are successful at playing the corporate leadership game tend to be Type A, alpha personalities with extremely competitive temperaments. If you are not careful, before you know it you’re not looking at how you compare to the 99.9 percent of the population you have already passed in income; you are focused instead on the .1 percent of those who are still ahead of you. Relatively speaking, compared to that reference group, you may still feel “poor.” Additionally, because of your competitive temperament, it can be difficult to just stop playing the game in the same way that professional athletes often find it difficult to walk away from their sports. Furthermore, one of the realities of the corporate game is that the amount of money you make is in fact one of the most reliable indicators of how much the organization values your contribution. You may have a fancy title or a big office, but you quickly learn that if you really want to know how you’re doing, you have to look at the relative value of your compensation package. It tells you your true internal and external market value. That is why, when an executive search firm calls you looking for an executive for one of their clients, one of the first questions the interviewer will ask you is: What is the value of your current compensation package? If your number is too low for what the client is willing to pay, it tells the search firm that you probably don’t have the qualifications to fill that particular role. Money is therefore a key indicator in signaling the type of leadership opportunities for which you are ready to compete. Given that reality, you can understand why people who are ambitious and competitive by nature would want to drive their compensation number as high as possible.

—Rod McCowan
Rod McCowan is senior vice president of global human resources at Hitachi Data Systems Corporation.

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