The CEO Is Not Driven Exclusively By Monetary Gain, But Motivators Running Far Deeper
The CEO Is Not Driven Exclusively By Monetary Gain, But Motivators Running Far Deeper

Most people think that senior executives and CEOs are solely driven by greed and their pursuit of the almighty dollar. While that may be the case for some, it’s simply not true for most.

Many CEOs, business owners, senior executives, professional athletes and creative content leaders such as recording artists, authors and actors, have more than enough financial wealth to retire if they want. Instead, they choose to continue working.


The truth is that once individuals earn a certain level of net worth, which is determined by each person, professional goals tend to shift from money. They are driven by other motivators. Contrary to the popularized disdain for CEO drive and motivation, interviews with some of the country’s most successful CEOs revealed the four most common non-monetary motivators for leaders and executives:

1. Challenge
One of the most basic needs of humans is the intrinsic desire to push ourselves and advance, to see how far we can go. That’s why people run marathons, try to set Guinness World Records, climb Mount Everest, explore the North and South Poles or travel to the moon.

We want to know (and prove) we’ve got the “right stuff” – that we can do it, and do it better than anyone else.

Many executives want to test their mettle against competitors or a tough corporate turnaround situation. Such a pursuit holds a higher value to those leaders than money.

2. Legacy
The only way to transcend the mortal coil is to create something that endures beyond one’s self.

This standard was raised by business icons of the past such as Carnegie, Mellon, Rockefeller and Morgan. It continues today with business leaders such as Jobs, Gates, Buffett and Zuckerberg. None of these individuals need first names to be remembered.

Many leaders recognize that fact and strive to achieve a lasting legacy within the brief span of time they have, because all the money in the world won’t buy them more time.

3. Influence
Whether you call it power or control, the desire for influence is a critical driver for leaders who want to change things, either forcefully or passively.

We all know leaders who took the forceful path of influence, while individuals such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa were motivated to upend the status quo via effective, passive influence.

While the passive approach might not have made the aforementioned leaders rich during their respective lifetimes, they were passionately motivated to change the world.

4. Ego
Every leader has to have some degree of ego to step out from the safety and security of the pack and dare to lead. A healthy ego and sense of self are necessary to accomplish virtually anything that’s worthwhile. This particular motivator also runs completely independent of monetary reward, but is no less powerful. An egotistical leader might chose to liquidate a firm rather than sell to an arch rival.

The “Take-Away”?

When individuals advance to the executive ranks and senior positions in organizations, there’s a good chance that they’re sole motivation is not money.

And, rather than vilify the CEO (motivated by simple jealousy or personal inabilities), it is simply wiser to take a good look at the characteristics and traits they have developed and leveraged that resulted in their singular success and emulate them as best you can. If you’re so motivated, that is.