During a recent France Inter interview, Laurence Parisot, president of the French Employers Federation Medef, compared top managers with top soccer players. She was very surprised about the "sudden" questioning around the salaries of (French) top managers. And anyway, if they would be paid less, the best would leave the country.
The same discussion took place a few years ago in the Netherlands. Mr Scheepbouwer (in Dutch), the new top manager of KPN, (the state owned telecom provider) not only got a top salary, and a tremendous option plan (sorry, in Dutch), but he also requested and received a golden parachute for a few millions of euros. At the same moment, thousands of employees were kicked out by the front door. Nobody understood where the so called risk what (that then should be rewarded via a high salary), if even the golden parachute is already contracted. Shortly before that moment, the Volkskrant had published a one page article explaining why Cor Boonstra (in those days chairman of Philips) earned not enough salary for his lifestyle (he earned a few millions a year). Of course you cannot compare topmanagers with ordinary people (and certainly not in poorer countries of the world). Eventually, those ordinary people do not run risks, do they ?
Anyway, back to Parisot. If the top managers would not be paid that much, they would leave the country she said. And the same argument, indeed, was used in the Netherlands. But a little research showed that Dutch managers were not at all so much in demand for top management functions in the world. And at least all of them speak English (which undeniably helps for an international career).
It cannot be by accident that almost all top Italian soccer players still play in Italy. At least they don't need this fake argument to justify the unjustifiable. Sportsmen, to make it even worse, only have a few years of their career that they are really playing on the top, and that would justify a somewhat higher salary, during that active period. Most soccer players at least know how much their salaries are out of range, and some of them even use their salary to reinvest in their roots. Most probably we call that social responsibility in management terminology. Top managers, on the other hand, seem to be "un-endable"; they go on for ever. If they would lose attention, they can always re-vamp it. Berlusconi is a master in media and a creative coach in this.
But there is hope. Italian soccer is re-inventing the sport. No big business anymore, just a team playing another team in an almost empty stadion. Now we should allow the friends and sympathizers and we are back to sports, aren't we ? Not that they really like it, of course, but at least it avoids "collaterale damage", as I explained in an earlier post.
Maybe, earlier or later, we are able to re-invent business. I can certainly advice an interesting book giving some good ideas: What is strategy and does it matter ? (Whittington) And guess what the answer is.