A key measurement of any corporate leader is how much confidence your employees have in you.
Doug Yearley, Paul Touhey and Dan Calista were evaluated by their workers as part of the 2013 Philadelphia-area Workplace Dynamics survey, and found to be the best leaders in area business for companies of their size.
Yearley took over as CEO and director of luxury home-building giant Toll Brothers in 2010 amid the great Recession, an upended housing market and sharply declining home values.
Yet, he and his Horsham-based company weathered the storm without cutting the niceties, including $1,000 employee referral bonuses and discounts on cars for workers and their families through the Reedman Toll dealership in Bucks County.
All 3,000 employees can still reserve luxurious guesthouses in vacation spots year-round and invite family and friends. After a decade with Toll, workers get an expense-paid trip for two to a destination of their choice.
Workers credit Yearley for seeing past the stock price and down quarters to a brighter future, and for sharing that vision with them.
"He is empathetic, decisive and intelligent," one worker wrote of Yearley, the large-company leader of the year, according to surveys conducted by WorkplaceDynamics.
Another said, "He motivates, understands, teaches, mentors, and communicates very well."
"He doesn't just tell top leadership and hope the information trickles down," one respondent wrote.
Another praised Yearley for "strategically positioning and growing the company."
Managing growth in a Japanese-owned company hasn't always been easy for Paul Touhey, president/CEO and director of Fujeribo Diagnostics, Inc. and the medium-sized company leader of the year. His firm, which has its U.S. headquarters in Malvern, Chester County, is a world leader in tumor marker tests and in vitro diagnostic products, with an emphasis on oncology.
"The President & CEO is a great leader, the best in the business," one respondent wrote, "but the majority of the people feel that he is limited in his decision-making due to the fact that the upper management in Tokyo continuously have reversed some of his decision regarding how to grow the business."
Fujeribo gives its 220 U.S. employees Fridays off and an annual bonus. The company also offers an in-house fitness center, fitness classes, personal sessions with a fitness trainer, wellness programs, free flu and Hepatitis B shots and free prescription safety glasses. Employees who work out during lunch get an additional 15 minutes.
Yet employees didn't heap praise on Touhey for the perks, but rather his honesty.
"The CEO and upper management don't hide anything from the staff, which makes everyone feel like they are well-informed," one wrote.
Another said, "He communicates with the company well and let's us know what is going on. Unlike other companies I have worked for, our CEO doesn't hide information from the employees and everyone knows where they stand. Have an honest leader is something that is critical for any company that wants their employees' trust and our CEO does a great job at that."
Vision set Dan Calista, founder and CEO of Vynamic, apart as the small company leader of the year. His Philadelphia-based management consulting firm specializes in the healthcare industry and has 65 employees, up 15 from a year ago. The company plans to hire 17 more this year.
Each employee can become an "Otter," a term for those who participate in the company's Opportunity to Thrive (Ott) program which stresses creative play for sheer enjoyment. Last year, that included lunch with Vanguard founder John Bogle, a visit to Wyebrook Farm and even cooking lessons. Each employee is also given $100 annually to donate to a charity at which they also volunteer.
"He is visionary in his commitment to the local market, healthcare industry, and vitals which support our growth," one worker wrote of Calista. "Dan does really set the tone about what is important and that is the people of Vynamic first...everything just seems to fall into place."
Workers praised him for listening to them, being thoughtful and for seemingly being ever present.
"He leads, it's that simple," one worker wrote. Another added, "We've established a clear organizational purpose, vision, and values, and Dan helps ensure that everything we do is in alignment with those core principles."
Dave Ralis produces the Business channel on Philly.com.