Jerre Stead made national headlines last fall when he became the first visible CEO to do exactly what so many people have been calling for all top managers to do in these days of downsizing and inflated executive salaries: When he signed on to run Santa Ana, Calif.-based Ingram Micro Inc., Stead (pronounced ‘sted’) took no salary, instead preferring to take his chances with company stock options thereby tying his compensation directly to his company’s success.
Business journalists may have suspected that Stead’s move was a well-conceived public relations move designed to win the confidence of the investment community. It was a lot more than that, according to Ingram Micro’s senior PR manager Kirsten Frosh. In his years at Honeywell and AT&T Global Solutions, Stead has developed a strong business philosophy whose centerpiece is employee communication and empowerment. Stead, Frosh says, is sincerely and thoughtfully devoted to the ideal of employee empowerment; he’s committed to building the corporate culture at this rapidly growing, $12 billion computer distributor so that employees, supervisors, middle management, and top management are all working toward the same corporate goals, unimpeded by the internal politics and motivational contradictions that derail so many empowerment schemes.