Who Are the Successful, Nice, CEOs Out There?
August 29, 2016 4:43 PM   Subscribe

Alan Mulally became famous for turning around Ford from the brink of bankruptcy without having to become an ax-man to do it. I am looking for examples of other leaders (CEOs, world leaders, ect.) out there who proved that being successful in business doesn't necessarily mean having to be a jerk. I am going to be doing a research paper on the similarities and differences of each leader's approach.
posted by LilithSilver to Education (24 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
josé mujica
posted by andrewcooke at 4:53 PM on August 29, 2016

Craig Jelinek.

Costco might literally be the only non-local place that I feel good about shopping at and can actually afford.
posted by cnc at 4:57 PM on August 29, 2016 [7 favorites]

Costco's founder James Sinegal and current CEO Craig Jelinek are supposed to be pretty good guys. High wages, afforadble health care...
posted by Caravantea at 4:58 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not sure if you can call him successful in the end, but Aaron Feuerstein
posted by Mchelly at 4:59 PM on August 29, 2016

I only know this from the They Might Be Giants song, but supposedly US President James K. Polk?
posted by ejs at 5:00 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Milton Hershey
posted by Michele in California at 5:09 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

After Lazard Freres bought Avis, they brought in Robert Townsend to run the company, and he turned it around. He later wrote a book about the experience called "Up the Organization!" which in particular concentrated on how he changed the company from "Theory X" to "Theory Y".

He also talks about his experience as a management consultant before that, where he tried to push Theory Y policies at various companies who brought him in.

His book is fun to read because it's a series of one- and two-page articles about various subjects, organized in alphabetic order. For instance, the page on Marketing begins "Fire the whole marketing department."
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:09 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Paul O'Neill (former CEO of Alcoa) seems like a decent guy.

Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia also seems committed to doing the right thing.

Jimmy Carter was not effective as a president, but is unquestionably a good person.
posted by adamrice at 5:10 PM on August 29, 2016

The Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas is so beloved by employees that there was a huge strike at the stores when his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas wrested control, eventually resulting in Arthur T. Demoulas being able to buy back the company. According to Wikipedia:
Demoulas was known for his ability to remember his employees' names, birthdays, and milestones, attending many of their weddings and funerals, checking in on ill employees, and asking about the spouses and children of his workers.[4][3] He was seen as a father figure by a number of his employees and compared to It's a Wonderful Life protagonist George Bailey for his willingness to put people over profit.[7]
posted by peacheater at 5:10 PM on August 29, 2016 [8 favorites]

Bill Comrie. Founder of The Brick, one of Canada's largest furniture, mattress, appliance, home electronics retailers (and father of NHL player Mike Comrie) is known to have distributed large amounts of money to employees on more than one occasion. When The Brick went public in 2004 Comrie gave employees large sums of money based on length of employment, amounting to between $8,000 and $50,000 CAD for a 25 year employee.
posted by little eiffel at 5:12 PM on August 29, 2016

Best answer: Glassdoor has a list of the CEOs rated highest by their employees.

For famous CEOs, despite what people think of facebook, Mark Zuckerberg is extremely well liked and trusted by his employees and generally well liked by most people who meet him, in addition to his extensive charitable endeavors.
posted by magnetsphere at 5:17 PM on August 29, 2016

This is the subject of chapter two of Good to Great, a popular business book. The author calls this type of CEO a "level 5" leader, and goes into great detail comparing these leaders to counterparts in the same industry who didn't see the same success.
posted by tinymegalo at 5:29 PM on August 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Hamdi Ulukaya of Chobani yogurt fame seems swell.
posted by waninggibbon at 5:33 PM on August 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

What do you mean by nice? Kind? Good to her employees? By a lot of standards Lou Gerstner was nice when he took over IBM because he cut once and cut deeply instead of the death by 1000 cuts which had been ongoing before he began. You might want to have a look at the more values driven companies:

Ingvar Kamprad (IKEA)
George Eastman (Kodak)
Rose Marcario and Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia)
Howard Schultz (Starbucks)

are all pretty famous examples.
posted by frumiousb at 5:57 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry Wehmiller and author of "Everybody Matters"

I absolutely second the suggestion of Hershey. Great employee benefits and an orphanage turned non-profit community that continues many good works today. I have extended family members who worked for Hershey and their pensions and benefits are pretty exemplary.
posted by areaperson at 6:47 PM on August 29, 2016

Tim Cook (Apple)
posted by a lungful of dragon at 7:30 PM on August 29, 2016

William McKnight (3M) felt that employees should be free to exercise their initiative, and the McKnight principles are still core to the company philosophy.
posted by cabingirl at 7:43 PM on August 29, 2016

Ben and Jerry?
posted by MsMolly at 7:44 PM on August 29, 2016

Came in to say the same thing as tinymegalo: Jim Collins calls this Level 5 Leadership. Besides the book mentioned above, Collins wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review in 2005 called "Level 5 Leadership: the Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve." As frumiousb pointed out above in the Lou Gerstner example - paraphrasing - while some of these leaders made very painful changes without "being a jerk", it doesn't mean the changes weren't just as painful.
posted by kovacs at 8:34 PM on August 29, 2016

The late Leon Gorman, long time CEO of L.L.Bean.
posted by anastasiav at 9:01 PM on August 29, 2016

You might see if you can find something on Peter Rose, the retired founder of Expeditors International in Seattle. Avowedly and shamelessly pursuing profit in the logistics industry, Rose crafted a worldwide company that treats its employees well, grows without the destructiveness of huge mergers and acquisitions, and became known on Wall Street for its often irreverent, if not outright funny, SEC filings.
posted by lhauser at 9:52 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

The late Ray Anderson, founder and CEO of Interface carpet company.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:55 PM on August 29, 2016

How far in the past are you interested in looking? George Cadbury could also fit the bill, especially considering the time period where he was active.
posted by penguinicity at 3:23 AM on August 30, 2016

Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo.

The CEOs of PepsiCo have mostly been pretty nice people which is a bit surprising because one step down the food chain it's pretty dog eat dog.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:47 AM on August 30, 2016

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