In this attempt to probe the collective psyche of corporate America's top brass, the author reaches few conclusions, but he does convey a sense of the pressures and responsibilities involved in running a major enterprise. Citing persistent slippage in productivity/profitability rates, a dearth of technological innovation, rampant inflation, and other socio-economic ills, Barmash, an assistant financial editor of the New York Times, wonders at the outset whether the current generation of chief executive officers may be suffering from tired blood. At the close, he judges them neither better nor worse than their predecessors, just different--a consequence of three distinct managerial ages. Until after World War II, the bosses dealt with things; throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the preoccupation was people; now, situations dominate, including adversary relationships with government regulators, consumer advocates, and other interest groups. Focusing on today's environment, Barmash gathered some first-rate material at the likes of AT&T, du Pont, GE, Hallmark, Loew's, and Revlon. David J. Mahoney, CEO of Norton Simon, comments: ""Businessmen get well paid to cope with problems, and what we're facing is just a new set."" And later: ""As soon as you get things too tightly controlled, it gets out of hand. Look at the American Medical Association, the Catholic Church, etc."" Laurence Tisch of Loew's is no less frank on the subject of bribery: ""People went to the economic counselors of the U.S. embassies around the world to find out whom you should pay."" Discussing sex discrimination, executive recruiter Pearl Meyer notes: ""I believe in tokenism. . . today's tokenism is tomorrow's practice, and I recommend that women take showcase jobs."" Barmash also looks into the unique managerial and operating styles of large privately-held concerns. Hallmark, for instance, has committed big sums to sponsoring low-rated but critically acclaimed TV drama specials. Provocative perspectives on the executive mind-set.