CEO: Corporate Leadership in Action by Harry & Stuart Rosenthal Levinson

CEO: Corporate Leadership in Action

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Bland, admiring write-ups of six CEOs (five of whom have since stepped down), based on questionnaire-interviews with the men and their designated associates, that arrive at some platitudinous conclusions about corporate leadership: preeminently, ""the leader must have a strong self-image and some ideal toward which he or she is striving."" Levinson is a management consultant, Rosenthal works for his firm, and both are (guessably) psychologists. Their six CEOs are Reginald Jones of GE, Walter Wriston of Citicorp, lan MacGregor of Amax, John Hanley of Monsanto, Thomas J. Watson, Jr. of IBM, Arthur Sulzberger of the New York Times: much-written-about figures, of quite different styles and personalities, whom the authors manage to largely homogenize. ""Jones has a reputation for being helpful and caring, another feature that characterizes each of our CEOs."" (Though Wriston is also said to be ""Darwinian."") All had to ""take charge,"" and undertake major reorganizations. All ""wish to avoid confrontation""--but even in the case of non-combative ""Punch"" Sulzberger, ""when he knows something needs to be done he does it."" In the concluding chapter, these allegedly common traits--and others--are given a theoretical gloss: ""The fusion of the affectionate and the aggressive is given added significance by the fact that these men were in what Erik Erikson calls the stage of generativity. They loved to mentor and to develop others."" The authors then refer to these men's identification with strong fathers: the sample is skewed, in that Watson and Sulzberger took over family businesses, while Wriston's father Henry was as eminent as his son; but that might be a distinction between corporate and entrepreneurial types, who tend to be the product of unhappy, insecure childhoods. A few generalizations, however--that the men also ""transmitted the meaning of the organization,"" that they ""loved their companies""--are small recompense for a lot of flaccid, uncritical writing about celebrated careers.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1984
Publisher: Basic Books