The good thing about the financial crisis "is it's forcing us to rethink what is the brand of the CEO," says Oren Harari, a management professor at the University of San Francisco.
The U.S. needs executives who have a broader sense of responsibility, who understand that customers, employees, investors and "people who breathe air" are all constituencies that the company needs to treat well, he said at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Boards hiring CEOs, he said, should look for less tangible qualities in candidates, such as a drive to leave the world a better place. "The most effective leaders don't just have mission statements," he said. "What they have is genuine, authentic higher causes."
This "conscious capitalism," as another panelist put it, is different from a corporate social responsibility program and needn't require the company to make financial sacrifices, Harari said, but he believes executives won't gain credibility until their pay comes down to Earth.
Learn more about the panel discussion, provocatively titled "CEO: How will it stop being a dirty word?" -- Liz Ruskin, SmartBrief on Leadership contributing editor