In 2011, the chief executive officers of America’s top 500 companies earned a collective salary of $5.2 billion. On average, that’s $10 million apiece. A closer look reveals that while the average employee was given a 3% pay raise, most CEO salaries increased by 6% last year. The obvious financial reward of being the highest ranking officer in a company begs only one question: how do they do it?
The second on the list of top 10 earners is fashion mogul Ralph Lauren, who pocketed a colossal $67 million last year. Head of a fashion house by the same name, Ralph Lauren is today a Forbes billionaire whose secret to success as a CEO is not acting like one. Like many designers, Ralph Lauren came from humble beginnings. Despite being considered the creator of “America’s fabric,” he has never let go of some of the habits he maintained as an early clothes maker. Ralph Lauren is still meticulous and hands-on, paying very close attention to each piece of clothing’s details. Coupled with his disregard for fashion trends, his eye for detail has crafted a brand which has since become the global benchmark for timeless casual wear.
In a revolutionary twist, five CEOs on the top earner list, Oracle‘s Larry Ellison, Google’s Larry Page, Whole Foods’ John Mackey, Hewlett Packard’s Meg Whitman, and Kinder Morgan’s Richard Kinder, have all opted for an annual salary of exactly $1. This compels them to drive corporate revenue— and consequently, company success— through the roof, as they receive their compensation from the stock gains on shares, putting a radical spin on “earning their keep.”