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How Much Money Is a Good Leader Really Worth?

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This story appears in the March 2014 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Gordon Bethune had inherited a mess. When he took the job of CEO of Continental Airlines in 1994, he was making the decision to commandeer a company that was losing nearly $55 million per month. The fifth-largest U.S. airline had way too many planes flying unprofitable routes. Its on-time performance consistently ranked last among the top 10 airlines, costing an average of $6 million per month in added expenses for misconnected bags, hotels, overtime and lost revenue due to canceled flights. Continental also ranked dead last in service, customer complaints and mishandled baggage. It was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy for the third time in 10 years.

By most accounts, Bethune engineered one of the most dramatic corporate turnarounds in history, largely by unlocking the value of Continental's 45,000 employees, whose input had been shunned by what he referred to as "cloistered management."

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