What's really sad that many companies have pay scales that all but force engineers to move up the org chart, and therefore out of engineering positions. But there's nothing sad about being happy to not have any direct reports.
Those guys can be paid as normal, or they can be paid according to execs at similar slots in the chart, depending on why they are there. The latter will often be accompanied with a suitably important sounding title to justify it, but still be effectively engineering positions with some advisory capacity tacked on, often with wide latitude in picking and choosing what projects they want to work on.
A reasonable number of organizations also explicitly have "grades" associated with people and have parallel non-managerial grades for engineering that goes fairly high. E.g. when I was at Yahoo a decade ago, there were engineering grades that went up equivalent to 3-4 managerial levels - near director or VP level if I remember correctly. They'd still be leaf nodes, but in the more critical teams.
This hasn't been my experience.