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The CEO as an American icon

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Title:
The CEO as an American icon radical values in business culture
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Tradii, Mary Rose
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English
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viii, 107 leaves : ; 28 cm

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Chief executive officers ( lcsh )
Chief executive officers ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 105-107).
General Note:
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Statement of Responsibility:
Mary Rose Tradii.

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ocn123285193
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Full Text
THE CEO AS AN AMERICAN ICON:
RADICAL VALUES IN BUSINESS CULTURE
by
Mary Rose Tradii
BA., Metropolitan State College of Denver, 1997
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Humanities
2006


2006 by Mary Rose Tradii
All rights reserved.


This thesis for Master of Humanities
degree by
Mary Rose .Tradii
has been approved
by
Pamela W. Laird
Myra Bookman


Tradii, Mary Rose (Master of Humanities)
The CEO as an American Icon: Radical Values in Business Culture
Thesis directed by Professor Nancy Ciccone
ABSTRACT
To understand the CEO as a symbol of success during the late twentieth century,
this thesis examines Business Week magazine for usage of the term CEO as it
entered business language and became a common designation for the highest level
corporate manager. A transformation in languagefrom that of company
president as the primary title, to that of chief executive officer and then CEO
occurred between 1950 and 1993. Through a study of articles about the lead
corporate executive position during this time period, the thesis traces the process
by which the discourse produced CEO iconography. The study of this iconization
revealed power relations as the basis for the development of a radical ethos in
business success values. Radical attitudes toward authority within the world of
business began with the irreverent attitudes of executives toward conformist
corporate culture after World War II. The radical ethic developed through the
business countercultural response to conformity during the 1960s, and then
through the chaos of social turmoil and economic uncertainty during the 1970s.
The CEO title and iconography emerged as a common term in business language


during the 1980s, when the resurgence of economic prosperity led Business Week
to dub the CEO a hero of business. A dichotomy between the CEO and the
conformist postwar executive, the Organization Man, characterizes CEO
iconography. The dichotomy solidified into a rivalry between executives of the
baby-boomer and the World War II generations. But that proved to be a
misleading image for defining radical business leadership, given the irreverent
resistance toward corporate hierarchy during the 1950s.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
SignedJ
f


DEDICATION
I dedicate this thesis to my parents, who stimulated my interest in business and
who modeled active concern for the larger world.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
I would like to thank to my thesis advisors Nancy Ciccone, Pamela W. Laird,
and Myra Bookmanfor their patience during the erratic process that finally
culminated in the completion of this thesis. I thank the staff of the Graduate
School for their assistance. I would also like to acknowledge the Advantage
Scholarship tuition program for students, like myself, whose parents did not
attend college.


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION....................................... 1
Cultural and Historical Background..................5
The Practice of Discourse in Business Week........11
Language Documentation: From President to CEO......12
2. THE COMPANY PRESIDENT AND THE STATUS QUO.............15
Emergence of Business Counterculture...............27
Radical Relations at the Threshold of Change.......45
Executive Power in Chaos...........................59
3. EMERGENCE OF THE CEO AS A CULTURAL ICON..............67
The CEO as a Capitalist Hero.......................76
Generational Definition of the Radical Ethic.......80
Discerning Generational Difference.................89
Conclusion.........................................97
BIBLIOGRAPHY................................................. 99
vm


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Whether viewed as hero or villain, the CEO is a contemporary symbol of
success. As an icon in American culture, he stands for wealth, power, and status
attained through business achievement. Yet the acronym, CEO, is relatively new
to the American business lexicon and even newer in common language. The
position of chief executive officer existed at large corporations and as a topic of
business discourse as early as 1914.1 2 Yet as Jerry Useem wrote in Fortune
Magazine Online: The title didnt gain wide usage until the 1970spresident
had been the standardand it wasnt until the late 1980s that one could safely use
the acronym CEO without someones asking what it stood for. When the term
CEO became a part of everyday American language in the 1990s, it seemed to
indicate a change in the definition of success as a valued pursuit in American life.
Business leaders gained a new kind of popular prominence amidst the uproar of
high-technology stock market speculation, the creation of new millionaires, and a
flourish of economic development. Books, such as How to Think Like a CEO and
The Mind of the CEO, reflected the desire to emulate and become a successful
CEO. Writers compared public figures as disparate as Britains Queen Elizabeth I
1 How the Chief Executive makes his place in his business, System and Business Management,
July 1914, pp. 35-38.
2 Useem, Jerry, CEOs Under Fire, Fortune Online, located at
http://www.fortune.com/ceo/underfire/timeline_intro.html; accessed 3 November 2002.
1


and A1 Quaida leader Osama Bin Laden in terms of the qualities of a CEO.
Periodicals appeared with CEO in the title, and newspapers included it frequently
in headlines. Enthusiasm for the Internet as a tool for entrepreneurial business
opportunities and for political democracy contributed a quality of positive social
purpose to the excitement. Countercultural ideas reminiscent of the 1960s
accompanied and contributed to the high spirits of the times; corporate cultures
celebrated decentralized authority, openness to change, and thinking out of the
box, and many approved of causal clothes. New language emerged, such as run-
on phrasing for company names, the word dotcom, and the term CEO itself.
Heads of all kinds of organizations, for-profit and non-profit alike, adopted the
title. Even independent business owners began to refer to themselves as CEOs,
though they employed few people and had no executives to be chief of. Even
criticism over excessive CEO compensation did little to quell the hyperbole. The
oversight was not surprising, given that an unprecedented number of Americans
owned stock in the public companies managed by CEOs.
Of course, hyperbole for the CEO virtually evaporated after the corporate
scandals of2001 and 2002, especially as they were preceded by the stock market
decline in 2000. Fortune Online published articles designed to help its readers
make sense of the role and power of business leaders as they changed in the
course of American history: CEOs Under Fire and From Heroes to Goats ...
and Back Again? However, Fortune used the term CEO anachronistically,
applying the term to people who may have never used the title chief executive
officer, let alone the acronym CEO. Also, in an effort to be entertaining,
Useem wrote the article series on the evolution of the business leader in an *
J Useem, CEOs Under Fire; Useem, Jerry, From Heroes to Goats ... And Back Again?
Fortune Online, http://www.fortune.com/index.jhtml?channel=print_article. jhtml&doc_
id=210129, accessed 3 November 2002; See also, Colvin, Geoffrey, The Great CEO Pay Heist,
Fortune Online, http://www.fortune.com/index.jhtml7channel
=print_articlejhtml&doc_id=202915,25 June 2001, accessed June 27,2002.
2


irreverent tone, and his hyperbole conveyed a bias toward sensational aspects and
people. Indeed, the hyperbole of these articles ignores or minimizes
characteristics incongruous with an ideal image of a business leader. It is a form
of aggrandizement which creates and reinforces CEO iconography.
The ubiquity of the term and an idolization of individual CEOs in the
media during the 1990s stimulated my curiosity about how and why the language
changed. In particular, I wondered how the corporate world came to espouse
values associated with 1960s counterculture, considered anti-business and anti-
capitalist. In short, I wondered how it became hip to be a CEO. In seeking a
cultural answer to a question about language, I determined that research in the
business media for initial usage of the term CEO and its adaptation into
everyday language would uncover an accurate representation of CEO
iconography. Preliminary research of the business media revealed the initial
usage of the CEO terminology in Harvard Business Review4, but I chose to
narrow the field of study to Business Week. As one of the most widely circulated
and read business periodicals, Business Week would gamer an understanding of
the popular CEO iconography, because it would reflect and influence the popular
view.5 I found that French philosopher Michel Foucaults ideas about the study of
discourses validated my instincts about how to seek answers as well as how to
interpret them. Moreover, the study of Business Week validated Foucaults
expertise in the analysis of discourse.
4 Eastlack, J.O.J., et al., CEOs role in corporate growth, Harvard Business Review, May 1970,
p. 150-152.
5 The widespread readership of Business Week was true for early historical aspects of this paper
but less so during the 1990s when new publications, such as Fast Company, entered the field. In
1957 Business Week ranked second only to the Wall Street Journal as the main source of business
information for corporate executives. New Dimensions in Top Executive Reading, Harvard
Business Review, September-October 1957, p. 96.
3


Foucault described a philosophical archaeology in which the excavation of
discourse reveals the process by which objects of knowledge and power are
formed through discursive events. In explanation of CEO iconography in
business discourse, I define discursive events as usage of the term CEO when it
is accompanied by substantial information about the position of CEO. These
events constitute the discursive formation of the CEO iconography, the process
by which business discourse attributed significance to the CEO and created a
cultural icon. Understanding CEO iconization involves a description of the
practice of discourse, that is, the patterns, attitudes, and beliefs embedded in the
discourse, which give meaning to the CEO title as it displaced the previously
dominant title, president. The advent of that displacement, the threshold,
occurs in the context of a network of power relations, as Foucault referred to it.
Specifically, in the post-World War II era, power relations within the bureaucratic
hierarchy of large corporations provoked the development of new management
practices intended to deal with power relations in those organizations. Moreover,
changing power relations in American society during the 1960s and 1970s created
social turmoil which affected the corporation. In this climate of conflict and
chaos, a radical attitude toward the structure of power in the corporation emerged,
particularly as that structure hindered business success. As such, this radical
attitude came to define the means to success. My intention, then, is to describe
the Business Week discourse on the lead executive position, specifically, as it
revealed the development of this radical ethic as a success model and established
the CEO as an icon of success in American culture.6
6 Foucault, Michel, History, Discourse, and Discontinuity, Readings in Contemporary Rhetoric,
Foss, Sonja, Karen A Foss, and Robert Trapp, ed. (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.
2002), p. 288; Foucault, Michel, The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans, A.M. Sheridan Smith
(New York: Pantheon Books, 1972) p. 45-46.
4


Cultural and Historical Background
The radical ethic is not new to American business culture. Previously, it
has been expressed in the enthusiasm of self-made entrepreneurs to use their new
wealth to change power relations with land-wealthy Americans. Also, the notion
of revolution infuses business language, as exemplified by the phrase Industrial
Revolution, and it pervades business life, such as in the idea of technological
innovation that completely transforms everyday life. Antecedents to this radical
ethic can be found in the character ethic, which espoused values of self-made
success during the early development of American capitalism, and the personality
ethic, the competitive individual in a maturing industrial society, when trusts,
monopolies, and other large corporate organizations attained unprecedented
economic power. These different views about the primary means of success have
never existed in isolation from each other; however; they dominated business
culture in accordance with specific economic and historical circumstances, and
the effected the way people approached success.
During the nineteenth century, notions of self-improvement and
masculinity meshed with Christian virtue into the character ethic, the ideal of
success in the self-made man. When applied to a divine calling, such traits as
honesty, industry, thrift, perseverance, initiative, temperance, and self-reliance
created success and furthered the development of moral character. Americans
believed that wealth combined with self-cultivation would create moral social
institutions. As such, the character ethic defined the independent entrepreneur,
who provided material goods, employment opportunities, and charitable
contributions that benefited social progress while he attained personal wealth and
public respect. However, in the context of the natural wealth of resources on the
North American continent, open for exploitation, wealth became an end in itself,
and uncertainty about the means and ends of business activities forced an uneasy
5


reconciliation between religious and moral values, on the one hand, and economic
and social mobility on the other hand.
As the impetus of wealth creation during the late nineteenth century led to
the formation of large-scale corporations, trusts, and monopolies, the success
ethic adapted to a concern for control of ones destiny in a time of rapid social
change and ever-larger corporations. The concrete financial capital of the large
business organizations exposed character as capital as grossly insufficient to the
achievement of personal economic advancement, and the personality ethic
emerged as the primary method to achieve success. Leadership, confidence,
personal magnetism, personal power, and mastery became the dominant values in
the pursuit of business achievement. In the mid-1800s Ralph Waldo Emerson had
observed a plus or positive power in the self-made men of his time, but he
assumed self-mastery involved conquering the demons within. Conversely, the
personality ethic attributed such power to the ability to control and influence
others. Actually, writers of the New Thought movement distorted Emersons
ideas about humanistic self-cultivation into a quasi-mystical mind power,
somewhat based on principles of divine connection but narrowly focused on
economic achievement. This positive thinking subverted Protestant virtue as the
means to success, and forthright honesty succumbed to manipulative
salesmanship and boosterism in an atmosphere of heightened competitiveness.
Stretching moral tensions of capitalism to their fullest, this turn further
emphasized wealth as an end in itself, diminishing the value of character
development, as well as the moral demands of individual accountability to
community.7 8
7 Cawetti, John G., Apostles of the Self-Made Man, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965),
p. 48-55, 94.
8 Ibid., p. 88, 97,173-176, 183,209.
6


Between 1896 and 1930, sustained prosperity renewed faith in the
possibility of individual advancement, and the personality ethic developed
alongside concern for practical business and management education as the means
to success. Concepts of rationality, system, and control came to characterize a
bureaucratic process structure in management practice, as well as in industrial
production. Beginning with the transcontinental railroad in the mid-1800s, the
expanding size of business enterprises demanded the adoption of complex
management structures, involving multiple levels of management, methods of
communication, and lines of authority for efficient and profitable operation, as
well as the balance of central executive authority with various levels of locality in
managerial oversight. In a corporate hierarchy, an executive needed to be able to
manage others, to relate to peers, and to follow direction from higher level
executives. Hence, the corporate personality involved the ability to be
authoritative, cooperative, and competitive in order to achieve business objectives
and gamer promotions. While the distribution of power and authority in
executive management has differed across time and place (i.e., specific
companies), usually one man, either as foundering entrepreneur or as an agent
hired to represent company shareholders, carries responsibility for the whole of an
operation.9
The hardships of the Great Depression reinforced personality and positive
thinking as the means to success, and books published at that time remain popular
into the early twenty-first century: Dale Carnegies How to Win Friends and
Influence People (1936), Napoleon Hills Think and Grow Rich (1937), as well as
Norman Vincent Peales The Power of Positive Thinking (1952). While the ideals
of the personality ethic stimulated an individualistic competitiveness that applied
9 Chandler, Jr., Alfred D., The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business,
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977); Cawelti, Apostles, p. 173-176, 183; Landry, John,
Corporate Incentives for Managers, Ph.D. diss., Brown University, 1995.
7


to entrepreneurs and to hired business managers alike, the success ethic shifted
further toward acquiescence to large, corporate organizations after World War II.
After fifteen years of depression and war, the perceived stability of ever-larger,
diversified corporations suited a cultural milieu in which security and peace of
mind became prime values, and the success model adjusted to a desire for
certainty. In this milieu the stereotype of the organization man came to
symbolize success through conformity to the corporate hierarchy, as a yes-man to
the boss. The notion of this corporate man behaving in a pleasing and agreeable
manner attributed a feminine quality to the stereotype in that women were
socialized to be pleasing. In The Organization Man, the study which coined the
infamous moniker, William H. Whyte identified a Social Ethic, which connoted
acceptance of big business hierarchy: More than anything else, Whyte stated,
the social ethic rationalizes the organizations demands for fealty and gives those
who offer it wholeheartedly a sense of dedication in doing so. Further, .. .it
converts what would seem in other times a bill of no rights into a restatement of
individualism. Whyte believed acceptance of organizational life weakened self-
reliance, thrift, achievement, and entrepreneurialism. The problem involved the
worship of The Organization brought about by its beneficence, the security it
provided and the dependence it created.10
Yet a close reading of The Organization Man contradicts the sense of a
stereotype. Whyte described subtle differences in attitudes among executives
based on age, generation, and place in the corporate hierarchy. Company
presidents tended to identify themselves as individualists, but the need to work
10 Cawelti, Apostles, p. 201-203,209; Cavallo, Dominick, A Fiction of the Pas.t The Sixties in
American History, (New York: St. Martins Press), 1990, p. 34; Whyte, William H., Jr., The
Organization Man, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956), p. 1-14.
8


through others prompted them toward permissive management in order to keep
peace. The need for harmony required them to conform downward in order
not to alienate employees who do the work. Preferring to be dominant, they
resented conformity, so they tended to be individualists privately and
conformists publicly. Nevertheless, Whyte saw awareness of this tendency as a
tough-minded grasp of reality, indicative not of conformity itself but of a
grappling with human relations. Furthermore, he viewed this awareness as the
precondition for executives independence. Concurrently, senior executives
tended toward competitive individualism, particularly once the possibility of
attaining the pinnacle of success as company president became a provocative
possibility.
According to Whyte, the actual organization men were the executive
trainees who downgraded individual economic advancement as a worthwhile goal
in favor of social values. Whyte found that trainees held positive expectations of
their employers, whereby the companies benefited from the abilities of its
employees and rewarded employees with promotions and raises accordingly.
While the true executive carried reservations about the benevolence of The
Organization, trainees expected to reach an appropriate plateau within the
hierarchy, a level of comfort, which provided success and security without
sacrificing the good life of family, leisure, and material abundance. Whyte
viewed this attitude as a tempered ambition and feared it would hinder innovation
and excellence in the future. He expressed particular concern about acceptance of
the group as a fact of organizational life. Though good in itself, such acceptance
engendered an idea of the group as superior to the individualof the group as the
originator of creative ideas rather than the individual. Consequently, the group
became a tyrant, denouncing unorthodox ideas and creating mediocrity through
compromise. Whyte appealed to executives to fight these excessive forms of
9


cooperation with The Organization, though not in a self-destructive manner, and
he praised resistance already occurring.11
Given this resistance in large corporate organizations, it would be
simplistic to say that the emergence of the CEO icon occurred in the context of
disaffection with the Organization Man and the bureaucratic structure of business
organization in which he worked. Nevertheless, Business Week portrayed the
CEO in rebellious opposition to the Organization Man: as individualistic rather
than conformist, entrepreneurial rather than bureaucratic, egalitarian rather than
authoritarian, risk-taking rather than cautious, open to innovation and change
rather than repressively stable. Moreover, the iconography solidified into a
generational distinction between postwar and baby-boomer executives. While
acknowledging the successes of the post-war generation, Business Week painted
late twentieth-century CEOs of the baby-boom generation as new and dynamic
business leaders in the process of displacing the staid conformist of a technocratic
age. But examination of the Business Week discourse revealed various forms of
resistance to the status quo, indicating less a CEO-Organization Man dichotomy
than the development of a radical ethosor what I refer to as a radical ethic
which came to define success during the late twentieth-century.12
Moreover, the radical ethic in business culture shares many of the
common characteristics of countercultural movements in general. In
Counterculture Through the Ages, Ken Goffman and Dan Lovejoy defined these
characteristics as humanistic in that they (1) assign primacy to individuality at
11 Ibid., p. 12-14,133-134; 154-155; 165,404.
12 The New Corporate Elite, Business Week, 4 May 1985, p. 62-71; Carey, John and Emily T.
Smith, The Pepsi Generation Heads for the Comer Office, Business Week 25 September 1989,
p. 170; Byrne, John A., Requiem For Yesterdays CEO, Business Week, 15 February 1993, p.
32; Bryne, John A., CEO Disease, Business Week 1 April 1991, p. 52; Byrne, John A. and
William C. Symonds, The Best Bosses Avoid the Pitfalls of Power, Business Week 1 April
1991, p. 59.
10


the expense of social conventions and government constraints; (2) challenge
authoritarianism in both obvious and subtle forms; and (3) embrace individual
and social change. Moreover, business counterculture carries many of the same
tendencies as other countercultural movements, for instance, by producing
innovations in art, science, philosophy, spirituality, and daily living. Such
movements tend to value creativity, novelty, diversity, and knowledge and, hence,
to foster freedom of self-expression, particularly in its democratic manifestations.
While countercultural values resonate with American cultural values in general,
the application of these ideas to a specific context reveals distinctive expressions
of countercultural characteristics in a given time and place. As the following
examination of Business Week magazine will show, countercultural values
emerged within business culture as a resistance to authority in corporate hierarchy
in the post-World War II era. This resistance provided the foundation for
incremental change toward the formation of a radical success ethic that came to
11
be represented by the CEO as an American cultural icon.
The Practice of Discourse in Business Week
In Business Week's early years, the discourse did not emphasize
businessmen as individuals or as groups. When its founders introduced Business
Week magazine in 1929, their stated intention involved bringing businessmen
news about business in all industries, an approach which sought to understand the
interdependence of industries and to explain their effects on each other. As such,
long articles tended to discuss specific industries and commodities, government,
or general business issues, such as mergers, banking, insurance, and markets. *
u Goffinan, Ken and Dan Joy, Counterculture Through the Ages: From Abraham to Acid House,
(New York: Villard, 2004), p.29-37.
11


Discussion on specific companies occurred primarily in brief articles and in the
context of these larger topics. Very few pictures accompanied the articles, and
those tended to show either government officials or workers demonstrating new
equipment or technology, rather than a company executive. Whereas early issues
of Business Week pictured businessmen on the cover, the accompanying stories,
of a few paragraphs, tended to emphasize the companies rather than the
businessmen. The structure of Business Weeks presentation changed after World
War II, and recognizable feature sections provided information about companies
and their presidents. Moreover, the position of company president became a
general topic of discourse in 1950, indicating new (or renewed) concern for the
position.14
Language Documentation: From President to CEO
To document the adoption of CEO as it supplanted president in
Business Week, I examined the general discourse for terminology related to the
lead corporate position, and then I proceeded to a quantitative account of usage of
the term CEO. In Business Week as a whole, regular use of the chief
executive title began in the late 1960s, usually as a secondary title to either
president or chairman. This usage coincided with the propagation of large,
corporate conglomerates and continued into the 1980s. In page-by-page research
for specific use of the term CEO for the years 1970, 1974, and 1978,1 found no
usage of CEO in 1970,120 usages in 1974, and 82 usages in 1978, exclusive of
advertising, missing pages, and one missing issue in 1978. The transformation of
I4Muir, Malcolm, Why The Business Week? Business Week, 7 September 1929, p. 5.; Business
Week 1932; Business Week 1936; Business Week 1938;14Business Week, 1944; Business Week,
1950.
12


usage in 1974 occurred in a cover story and special report in the May 4 issue,
titled The chief executive officer. The series of ten articles plus an editorial
commentary used the term CEO 107 times, in contrast to only one usage prior
to that date and twelve after that date, in the 52 issues of Business Week for 1974.
Notably, Business Week did not introduce the acronym with its components, chief
executive officer, indicating an assumption of knowledge of the term on a verbal
level in business and underlining the influence of Harvard Business Reviews
earlier usage of the term in 1970. A 1972 Business Week article (found through
index research) included CEO eight times, including one in parentheses to
define the acronym for chief executive officer. The process by which the term
became normalized in Business Week language began after the 1974 special
report. Initially, usage of the term tended to occur in picture captions, short
articles on executive succession, and in headlines, sub-headlines, and pull quotes,
as well as in articles noting the title of a company head, usually either president
and CEO or chairman and CEO. Use of the acronym, CEO, seemed to occur
for convenience, where space and repetitiveness were a concern. The high profile
of word usage in large-letter headlines and pull-quotes, however convenient,
focused attention on the top executive as a CEO.15
As normalization continued, the president became second in command,
though the chief executive officer frequently held the president and chief
executive titles simultaneously. In one article, Business Week used the term
CEO to differentiate hired professional managers from founders. In 1983,1
found only 75 uses of CEO; however, by 1988, the term CEO appeared at least
twice in every issue, based on the first three months examined for that year.
While Business Week continued to use the term in headlines, subheadings, and
15 Business Week 1970, 1974,1978; More Room at the Top for Marketing Men. Business Week,
12 August 1972, p. 27; Eastlack, J.O.J., et al., CEOs role in corporate growth, Harvard
Business Review 48 (May 1970) p. 150-152.
13


pull-quotes, the term appeared more frequently in long articles and in The
Corporation section, and less frequently in brief articles and other regular
features. This change indicated a move to the mainstream language in business
media. Also, annual lists focused on CEOs, such as The Best Managers, and
Portrait of the Boss, the latter retitled Portrait of the CEO. Thus a
quantitative analysis establishes a definitive change in business language and
exposes the time parameters for understanding that change, from 1950 to 1993.16
Discourse specific to the lead executive mirrored this quantitative account.
When the top corporate position appeared as a general topic of discourse in 1950,
the president held that position in most companies. In this discourse, the few uses
of the term chief executive occurred in the context of the largest, publicly
owned corporations, such as General Electric. In these instances, Business Week
used chief executive as a general title, not attached to a specific person, and the
title could be construed as interchangeable with president. A shift in emphasis
from president to chief executive officer began in a 1960 article, which explained
that, Presidents, of course, arent necessarily the head men, and that the chief
executive title usually accompanied that of either president or chairman.
Emphasis on the chief executives position intensified during the early 1970s
(relative to the number of articles examined). In general, Business Week began to
refer to the chief executive officer regularly and to use the title formally, as in
Chief Executive John Smith. Then a transformation in the discourse began in
1974 with the prominent use of the CEO term in a substantial report about the
position.17
16 No. 2 Mans in the Hot Seat, Business Week, 26 January 1976, p. 25-26.; Following the
Corporate Legend. Business Week, 11 February 1980, p. 62-68. Business Week, 1983; Business
Week, January-March, 1988; Business Week 1991, Business Week 1992, Business Week 1993.
17 Business Week, 1950; Business Week, 1955; Business Week, 1962; Business Week, 1968;
Business Week, 1970; Business Week, 1974; Do Top Men Need Aides? Business Week, 22
August 1952, p. 122.; Faster In-and-Out in Top Jobs, Business Week 26 November 1960, p. 96.
14


CHAPTER 2
THE COMPANY PRESIDENTAND THE STATUS QUO
The company president emerged as a topic of discourse in Business Week
magazine just as a new status quo emerged in American life after World War II.
Ever-larger corporations assumed a more prominent function in American life by
providing employment, benefits, and pensions that contributed to the security of
growing families in an uncertain time. Initially, Americans greeted the immediate
post-war period with trepidation that the national economy would sink back into
depression. But wartime improvements in technological capabilities at corporate
factories provided a base for new consumer products and more effective
economies of scale in manufacturing, and wartime savings provided a base for
economic development. Between 1945 and 1950, the number of cars on the road
doubled and continued to grow. Transportation supported development of
numerous suburbs, shopping centers, and supermarkets, as well as hotels and
restaurants along the improved network of interstate highways. Concurrently,
management innovations of the 1920s came to fruition; specifically,
decentralization supplied a structure from which companies could expand and
maintain management control by setting up a separate division for each new
product. The decentralized structure expanded management opportunities, and
mass manufacturing made American wealth creation somewhat democratic, as the
15


white middle-class expanded and its level of material comfort improved. A desire
for financial certainty and material abundance stimulated interest in the large
corporation as the place to attain success, and climbing the corporate ladder
1 fi
became the primary model of success.
In historical retrospect, the Business Week discourse on the lead executive
position during the 1950s imparted businessmens adjustment to the new status
quo and the means to success within it. A pursuit of management knowledge
through surveys, seminars, and roundtable discussions, sponsored primarily by the
American Management Association (AMA) and Business Week, prompted all of
the articles, and they revealed an unfolding concern with various aspects of the
job of company president: pragmatic, daily concerns; what it is like to be a
corporate president and what traits the position entails; how to attain the position;
adjustment to the position; what to expect during the years of commitment and
upon retirement. In a prosperous era, when a reader might expect high regard,
even adulation, for company presidents, however, the discourse revealed
misgivings about their authority, even irreverent disregard for the presidents
position and status. These irreverent expressions drew attention to power
relations in corporate life and revealed resistance to the new status quo.
Furthermore, resistance initiated the development of the radical ethic as it would
emerge in Business Week.
Irreverent humor as resistance to the status quo emerged in the first article
published about the company president, in 1950, What Does a President Do? In
a panel discussion sponsored by the AMA, participating company presidents
answered questions about the internal dynamics and structures of their companies
and the role of the president. Business Week provided verbatim summaries of 18
18 McQuaid, Kim, Uneasy Partners: Big Business in American Politics, 1945-1990, (Baltimore:
John Hopkins University Press, 1994), p. 14,34-35,45; Micklethwait, John, and Adrian
Wooldridge, The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea, (New York: The Modem
Library Chronicles, 2003), p. 106-107,114.
16


each mans responses. However, Business Week conveyed reservations about the
president and uncertainty about management practices and the structure of
organization. Business Week introduced the article:
Each company president knows how he handles his own job.
But many a man in that position has often wondered what other
presidents do, and whether his own way of being the big boss
matches theirs. Lesser company executives have an added interest.
They would like to know what is going to be expected of them if
and when they succeed in rising to the top of the heap.
Hence, the presidents status is well-defined in terms of organizational structure,
but insecure because it invokes a search for external validation. Moreover, the
irreverent descriptionof the president as the big boss and of the position as
above the heap of competitorsclassified presidents as elite, above a jumbled
mass of executives of ambiguous status. This depiction of the presidents
organizational position conveys antipathy toward the president in a separate
power position and special class. Furthermore, in suggesting a reality of chaos,
the depiction exposed flaws, and even a pretense, in rational management
practice. Hence, antipathy toward the president extended to the organizational
hierarchy that he designed. Nevertheless, the AMA panel discussion carried the
interest of executives, as the corporate hierarchy provided opportunities for
advancement and social mobility. As such, the cynicism connoted by irreverent
humor disclosed doubt about the likelihood and the quality of those opportunities.
Thus, irreverence in discourse revealed tension between discontent with the
corporate success model on the one hand, and a desire for knowledge about the
top position on the other hand.19
19 What Does a President Do? Business Week, 10 June 1950, p.30,32; see also Whyte,
Organization Man, p. 159. Unless otherwise indicated, each article is cited at the end of the
paragraph in which it is described and analyzed.
17


Business Weeks description of a similar panel discussion, reported in
Top Men Take a Look at Their Jobs, conveyed resistance to the elite status quo
through a tone of neutral approbation toward the company president. Business
Week communicated a sense of uniqueness of a company president among a
plurality of men of similar stature: There are as many ways to organize a
presidents job as there are companies. Yet the simplistic phrasing and deadpan
tone did not constitute praise for uniqueness, as such praise would contribute to
the status of company presidents. Rather, by imparting a dull skepticism, fed by
post-war malaise, the statement implied the opposite: that corporations and their
presidents were all similar in their approach to accomplishing goals and solving
problems. Moreover, in the context of other elements of the article, the company
president could be construed as authoritarian. For instance, determining
organization structure emerged as one way a president asserted his authority.
Business Week confirmed the dominance of the presidents position within that
structure: A president gets paid so much, not because he is so much smarter, but
because he faces these problems, takes the responsibility, and wields the
authority. Hence, Business Weeks depiction of the presidents mastery and
control over structure and operations revealed a sense that everyone should know
their place within the organization, regardless of intelligence, perhaps to assuage
doubts of the president about himself and his role. Consequently, neutral
approbation emerged as a form of resistance to the bosss questionable authority
and constituted a mechanism to maintain independence in the face of overbearing
individualism on the part of the president.
As business pragmatists, company presidents toiled over the problems
caused by status and authority in corporate structure. The topic arose in the 20
20 Top Men Take a Look at Their Jobs, Business Week, 26 January 1952, p. 112-113, 116: see
also Whyte, Organization Man, p. 48.
18


context of AMA seminars about the position of assistant to the president, and
Business Week covered the issue in the 1953 article, Do Top Men Need Aides?
Among the controversial issues, Business Week expressed concern with the use of
aides as an indicator of status. General Electricwhose influence on
management matters is connoted by a separate section of comment within the
articlecontended that assistants stalled smooth workflow. The company
eliminated 1,400 such positions and created positions that dignify the line
organization. The management structure provided specific titles, well-defined
job descriptions, independent responsibility, and corresponding pay. Such a
decentralized management structure made assistants unnecessary and prevented
executives from retaining responsibilities that should be delegated. According to
General Electric, by extending the power of decision-making authority throughout
the line organization, the company provided opportunities for risk and success
throughout the company. By highlighting General Electrics decentralization,
Business Week advocated for the rationality of a structure that would mitigate
status ambiguity, chaos, and uncertainty about the corporate success model, as
revealed in the previous two articles. As such, decentralization and the
opportunities created by it reinforced a sense of security. Consequently, the
absence of irreverence in this article revealed the potential of decentralization to
avert discontent with the corporate success model and, therefore, to discourage
y 1
resistance to that model.
Irreverence re-emerged in subsequent articles, as two Business Week
surveys examined the means by which the top corporate position could be attained
and provided a broader view of the demands of the presidents job. The 1956
article, How Top 500 Presidents Set Off on Their Long Climb, considered age,
level of education, field of specialization, and industry specific tendencies, in 21
21 Aides p. 122,126-127.
19


regard to their statistical indications of an individuals potential for successfully
attaining the position of president. Despite serious concern for preparing potential
executives to endure the tedious ascent, Business Week introduced the survey with
irreverent humor: From this survey young businessmen determined to reach the
dizzy height of the presidential suite can get a fair idea of what chance they have
of clambering up to it and of roughly how long the climb will take. While the
metaphor of a ladder conveyed effort to reach the top position, word choice
clamberingalluded to a clumsy, even uncertain, effort, only to be dizzy at
the top, that is, heady with power and authority, perhaps surprise, at having
reached the peak of success. Whereas this humorous depiction implied an
awkward absurdity in the attempt at corporate achievement, the description
directed attention to the purpose of the survey, to illuminate how to achieve
success rationally, along a certain path rather than haphazardly. Again, Business
Week irreverence revealed tension between disaffection with hierarchys illusion
of ordered rationality and desire for success and security within that corporate
structure.22
This tension between disaffection and desire revealed itself in the irony
that attaining the highest level of corporate success meant accepting isolation and
loneliness. In the accompanying article, Top Office is a Lonely Pinnacle,
Business Week augmented the statistical survey with a qualitative perspective
derived from interviews with men who held the top position for a period of a few
months to five years. The results of the interviews elaborated on the emotional
experience of the company president. First, Business Week described the
changing nature of the presidents job, whose role as a business leader ... has
become increasingly important and one that, in the days of postwar boom, has
22 How Top 500 Presidents Set Off on Their Long Climb, Business Week, 9 June 1956, p. 110-
112,114,116.
20


changed sharply as companies expand, diversify, and reach the complex stage of a
modem corporation. Hence, the nature of the position may have changed
significantly between the times a trainee aspired to become company president
and attained the position. Thus the dizzy height metaphor of the previous,
article implied disorientation in the adjustment to a wider expanse and conceptual
view of operations than anticipated. While the vice-president managed a segment
of operations and made recommendations to the president on how to proceed, the
president carried responsibility as final authority for the whole of the
organization, for its present operations and its future vitality. Thus, the company
president bore the risk of any decision with no back stop. As one participant
stated, ... its your neck if that decision turns out wrong. This attitude
suggested that the presidents sense of risk and potential failure moderated
expectations of power and glory in success at the dizzy top. Moreover,
apprehensive power relations between presidents and executives contributed to
the isolation. In organizing company structure for efficiency, presidents often
eliminated executive positions, creating distance between the president and those
executives who retained their positions. For their part, subordinate executives
treated the president differently, less a friend to him than before promotion. As
one president stated, Once you get to the top spot you have left behind a lot of
intimate friends and it is hard to make new ones. Whereas one would expect
professional success to create personal happiness, the allusion of a dizzy
president pointed to bewilderment as rigid status relationships created loneliness
and, therefore, unhappiness. Thus, resistance to the status quo emerged in
irreverent humor that questioned the validity of success in a large corporation if
its attainment did not lead to happiness.23
23 Top Office is a Lonely Pinnacle, Business Week, 9 June 1956, p. 118,120, 122,124; Long
Climb, p. 110.
21


Whether tension in professional relationships intensified resistance to
authority, or resistance to authority intensified tension in professional
relationship, this tension disempowered presidents as individuals and as men.
Success in the presidents position entailed the ability to obtain cooperation and to
motivate a productive enthusiasm; one president described himself as the chief
morale officer. Hence, social skills took precedence over the technical abilities
that may have contributed to promotion. The president did not perform the work
himself, he worked through people. Therefore, he must like people in order
to inspire them toward success, and he must be visible throughout the
organization to accomplish this. As such, managerial social skills involved
organizing and lifting people beyond themselves and creating dignity, thus
stimulating your fellow workers to better efforts. In effect, the president
accommodated the egos of subordinate executives in order to obtain cooperation.
In so doing, he tempered an aggressive personality, which Business Week noted
as an identifying trait of company presidents. Hence, tension between the
authority of the president and the cooperation of subordinate employees resulted
in conformity at the top. Moreover, through the attempt to invoke agreeable
methods of motivating subordinates, the pleasing personality of the Organization
Man stereotype would have emerged. Consequently, negotiating human relations
emerged as power relations that inhibited both masculinity and individuality on
the part of the president. Thus, another aspect of success in large corporations
signified disorientation in the top executive position, the exchange of personal
power for managerial power, a situation that provided cause to mock the
corporate career with the use of satirical humor.24
A 1957 article, At Top, Its All Work, No Play, further revealed
complex, contradictory attitudes toward the company president which evoked
24 Lonely Pinnacle, p. 122,124; see also Whyte, Organization Man, p. 155
22


defiance toward the status quo. The article examined personal considerations for
choosing a corporate career, based on the results of an AMA survey of 335 No. 1
executives, intended to contribute deeper insight into the complete corporate
executive. First, Business Week gave a sterile, simplistic affirmation of the
uniqueness of these men: Company presidents come in all types and sizes.
Then the article highlighted presidents special place, depicted as their exalted
positions; however, this choice of phrasing revealed reluctance to actually exalt
the president and to say who did exalt him. Moreover, the mocking tone betrayed
pretense in any exaltation, particularly given the narrow values of corporate
success. For instance, the presidentand the executives who aspired to be
presidentworked up to ninety hours per week, often to the detriment of family,
home, and leisure. Conversely, Business Weeks summary of specific traits as
antecedents to success exuded a positive tone: energy, vitality, drive, and self-
confidence. These traits reflected the character ethic as adapted to corporate
bureaucracy in a time of dramatic economic expansion, as drive connoted
perseverance, self-confidence connoted self-reliance, energy, industry, and
vitality, initiative. Moreover, these traits would counteract the psychological
malaise that pervaded the postwar period, a malaise that needed to be overcome in
order to succeed. But while Business Week presented company presidents as
symbols of success appropriate to the historical period, the discourse revealed a
paradox when it noted the absence of merit in certain processes of success. While
elements in the success model included luck and going to college, Business Week
noted flippantly: Some not fortunate enough to be bom with companies in their
mouths, overcame the handicap by marrying the bosss daughter. Thus, the
examples of inheritance or of marriage exposed a fallacy in revering the president.
Hence, perception of a lack of merit provoked lack of confidence in the corporate
23


success model and, in turn, a subversive criticism directed at the company
president.25
Such critical skepticism would blunt attempts to motivate a field of
candidates for the lead executive position. Nevertheless, Business Week provided
a positive portrayal of the rewards of executive success, and their inclusion
alluded to the power of material abundance to motivate a field of candidates for
corporate employment. A description of personal leisure preferences as ways to
mix business with pleasure (bridge and golf), as well as preferred kinds of food
(steak) and alcoholic beverages (scotch and dry martinis), generated a picture of
abundant material life, even as it furnished information for an individual to
determine how to fit with the corporate elite. Moreover, living an abundant life
meant social status, because top executives held the power to attain private
dreams of boats and summer houses: Being energetic, aggressive, and fairly
well-to-do, it is within the power of most of these men to fulfill their wishes.
But personal fulfillment through work outweighed these material rewards, which
executives had little time to enjoy anyway. In reflecting on their motivations,
survey participants expressed acceptance of the work at the expense of other
pleasures without regret. Indeed, Business Week observed, .. they cant tear
themselves away from their jobs long enough. They like their jobs too much.
Business Week speculated that the problems of the position posed challenges,
without which many No. 1 executives would be bored. Thus Business Week
compensated for limitations on family and leisure life with the higher purpose of
acting for the good of the company. A profitable, well-managed company
benefited employees, customers, and communities in ways that reflected
positively on a company and its president. Hence, in addition to material rewards
and intellectual fulfillment in work, corporate achievement carried social status
25 At Top, Its All Work, No Play, Business Week, 24 August 1957, p. 45-46,48, 50, 52.
24


incentives which dissuaded discontent and attracted capable businessmen to large
corporations. Moreover, corporations experienced difficulty in finding
executives capable of handling the top management position, a situation that
buttressed the status of company presidents and emphasized the need for
attractive incentives.26 27 In raising the issue of incentive, Business Week defined
business success specifically in the sphere of the new status quo; it supplanted the
risk and independence of self-employment with the material rewards, status, and
security offered by the large corporations.
But admiration inspired by such incentives turned to criticism as Business
Week questioned the validity of one of the presidents few complaints: the
difficulty of getting people to do their own thinking or the slowness with which
junior executives make decisions. Business Week stated that the presidents
dont say whether their own attitudes shape this behavior. The comment
constituted a direct challenge to top executive authority. Rather than use humor
to soften the edge of criticism, however, Business Week made the statement in a
serious tone to emphasize the point: to question whether the presidents created an
environment where executives felt free to express themselves and their ideas or an
environment where executives felt constrained by concern with acceptance or
approval. Succinctly, did the presidents stimulate conformity or individuality?
While these presidents loved their work, did they hinder other executives from
crafting meaningful work experiences for themselves? What kind of power
relation existed to create this problem? Thus, confrontation with presidential
authority in Business Week discourse connoted a shift from implicit criticism,
26 Ibid., p. 50, 52; For more background on public impact, see, For Company Presidents, More
Not LessOutside Activity, Business Week, 23 August 1958, p. 80-82, 84.
27 Industry Beats the Bushes to Fill Top Management Jobs, Business Week, 23 February 1957, p.
173.
25


through irreverent humor and neutral approbation, to an explicit question about
power and executive autonomy within the corporate structure.
Discussion on the final stage of corporate executive life, retirement,
revealed an easing of the tension between the desire for success and skepticism
about success in a bureaucratic hierarchy. In Faster In-and-Out in Top Jobs,
Business Week described how mandatory retirement at age sixty-five prompted a
higher rate of turnover among chief executives and so improved opportunities
for advancement among other executives. Prior to mandatory retirement, long
tenures of presidents caused frustration for potential successors: Chances were
that the man who got ahead of him would hang on until they dropped in their
tracks. Hence, Business Week portrayed mandatory retirement as a good
management practice, as it helped bring fresh thinking into the chief executive
office and opened the channels of promotion across several layers of
management. Thus, mandatory retirement served as an inducement to keep
executives motivated and patient for promotions. Generous pensions, stock
options, and profit-sharing bonuses promised a comfortable and secure retirement,
with income approximating pay from work. Further, depending on the length of
the presidents tenure, he may have the opportunity and satisfaction of making an
enduring impression on the corporation and American life. Thus, the rewards of
corporate life continued past retirement and old age security asserted a sense of
superiority in the corporate ladder as the preeminent model of success. In this
article, the absence of irreverence and criticism indicated a shift toward optimism
and acceptance of the corporate success model.* 29
Thus, examination of Business Week discourse of the 1950s revealed
both resistance to the status quo and conformity to it; hence, the discourse
All Work, p. 52; Whyte, Organization Man, p. 48, 126-128, 155-156.
29 Faster, p. 94; Whyte, p. 394-395.
26


mirrored Whytes contention that corporate managers struggled with issues of
conformity and autonomy in human relations. Nevertheless, while concern for
social relations indicated conformity on the part of the company president, the
weight of discourse emphasized the singularity of the company president for
having reached the top position. Regardless of a presidents actual ability, he still
took the responsibility and wielded the authority.30 Conversely, certain rewards
and incentives were necessary to attract capable businessmen to that position, a
situation that conveyed reluctance to pursuing it. That so much of the discourse
revealed resistance to becoming presidentto becoming the authority that others
would resistfocused attention on the presidents singular willingness to pursue
the position and accept it, despite loneliness, lack of cooperation by employees,
and other difficulties of the position. Hence, resistance to the status quo
expressed in Business Week suggests not conformity, but a tension between the
desire for business success and economic security on the one hand, and
discomfort with the demands of the corporate success model on the other.
Moreover, it would be in the interests of any business institution, of which
Business Week is one, to pursue the best interests of business success, particularly
during the Cold War when capitalism competed with communism as an economic
system. Indeed, to the extent that management methods sought to assuage
discontent and conformity, positive expectations of change emerged.
Emergence of Business Counterculture
During the 1960s, criticism, irreverence, and resistance to the status quo
disappeared from the Business Week discourse, and sustained prosperity fostered
30 Their Jobs, p. 113.
27


an optimistic outlook which generated positive enthusiasm for changes in
business culture. By the early 1960s, ninety percent of the large corporations had
decentralized management operation, and the rationality of the structure fostered a
sense of security and increased promotions and social mobility in a growing
economy. While executives would derive satisfaction from opportunities
provided by this approach to organizational management, in practice, stringently
defined line organization encouraged rigid status relationships. Moreover, central
office staff devised policy manuals to control decisions made by line organization
executives (the department heads distinguished by their place on the organization
chart). So, rather than encourage executive autonomy through a system of loose
control, decentralization contributed to a shift in emphasis from people to rules.
Concurrently, Business Week began to express humanistic ideas that promoted
individuality and autonomy. In the discourse, and hence in business culture, a
subtle shift occurred in which valorization of individuality acted as a
countercultural response to the Organization Man stereotype, even as
organizational structure reinforced the technocratic aspects of the stereotype.31
This subtle shift in business culture began with an assertion of individual
distinction on the part of the lead corporate executive. For instance, the national
prosperity prompted Business Week to give definitive praise to the lead corporate
executive in the 1967 special report, Corporations: Where the Game is Growth.
The article followed from the citation, The Men Who Run the Top 20
Manufacturing Companies, which directed readers to a page of photographs of
the twenty men along with the names of the corporations they led. The articles
subtitle indicated the reason for picturing these men: U.S. business has found
that growth is the key to survival. But it brings other things, too: enormous
strength with great flexibilityand a momentum that lures top talents. In
jl McQuaid, Uneasy Partners, p. 92-93; Whyte, Organization Man, p. 275.
28


retrospect of previous discourse, the subtitle suggests that opportunities and
incentives accomplished their purpose in attracting managers worthy of praise to
corporate life. Moreover, word choicetalentsuggested innate individual
ability, and therefore, merit, as the basis of executive worth. Such praise reflected
a shift from the irreverent negation of that which hindered individuality toward a
positive validation of individual ability. This affirmation denoted a renewal of
confidence which fostered a countercultural ethos in business culture.
Business Week expressed this counterculture ethos through the
valorization of masculine individualism in an American context. Indeed, Business
Week emphasized frontier individualism as a keystone to prosperity by placing the
following quotation in the opening paragraph of the article:
We grow not just to stay in business but to have a virile, stimulating
atmosphere. The strength of the U.S. is in an industrial base that is
ever-growing. Growth is associated with progress, the means to
accomplish more things. Profit is only one of the motives. A
stronger motive is a deep, pioneering spirit. (Charles B. Thornton,
president, Litton Industries)
Hence, corporate culture resonated with masculine potency buttressed by notions
of the larger cultures frontier history, with its implication of rugged
individualism, challenge, adventure, and risk-taking in the pursuit of happiness.
As such, Business Week evoked cultural identity as a form of emotional power for
business achievement. Furthermore, Business Week attributed a meaningful
social purpose in the spirit of western expansion, in that the economic wealth
generated by corporations underpins the whole society. The article conveyed a
symbiotic relationship between American consumers who were better educated,
more mobile, more discriminating (Ben S. Gilmer, president of AT&T), and 32
32 Corporations: Where the Game is Growth, Business Week, 30 September 1967, p. 99, 106-
109,112,115,116-118,120; The Men Who Run the Top 20 Manufacturing Companies,
Business Week 30 September 1967, p. 115.
29


businessmen who took responsibility for addressing the rising aspirations of the
American people. Consequently, technological innovation and product
development, as well as the resulting economic growth, constituted corporate
cultural power, which generated and perpetuated the middle-class standard of
living. In effect, business success was congruent with social progress through the
material improvement in peoples lives. As such, a paternalism that supported
public happiness reinforced masculine individualism and generated social power
for the top executive as well as for the corporation. Although this revival of
frontier history lacked a radical hue on the surfacein that it supported the status
quo of success in the large corporationin the context of bureaucratic hierarchy,
masculine self-assertion countered the perception of cautious stability and
feminine passivity stereotypical of the Organization Man.33
Business Week confronted the Organization Man stereotype, implicitly, by
emphasizing how an active response to the economic challenges of the time
provided evidence of the talent and individualistic risk-taking capacity of
corporate leaders. Corporate managers faced many problems. As operational
costs rose, including wages, advertising, and utilities, companies had to grow to
maintain market share and sustain profitability. A grow or die mentality
manifested in an acceptance of acquisition by another company if market share
and profitability suffered. Moreover, in a survey of growth companies, no top
managers believed growth to be automatic or that they had the power to force
growth. Hence, the talents and abilities of presidents/chief executives filled the
gap between the potential for success and the possibility of failure. As such,
growth companies required very high caliber men, a phrasing that alluded to
frontier individualism by using the same language applied to describe the
magnitude of a rifle. Thomas J. Watson, Jr. at IBM provided a dramatic example
33 Growth, p. 99,107-108; Recall Lonely Pinnacle, p. 124.
30


of corporate risk. Watson bet the company on a heroic scale by borrowing
millions of dollars to develop the 360 computer. In essence, he ventured into
unknown technological territory and emerged successful. As such, Business Week
evoked the image of the frontier individualist as a hero armed with talent and
bravado, who ventured into unmapped territory and returned to civilization with
knowledge that would improve the well-being of the community; in Watsons
case, it was a labor-saving computer. Hence, in evoking this frontier image,
Business Week offset the staid image of the cautious, dedicated executive of
questionable ability, who worked long hours in an office.34
Business Week further celebrated masculine individualism in the context
of corporate growth by evoking an image of military honor. In discussing kinds
of business strategies that foster growth, Business Week noted that growth brings
year-by-year increases in earnings and dividends that mean epaulettes for
management. The metaphor of epaulettes, shoulder ornaments on military
uniforms that indicate an officer of distinction, signified the accolades and
prestige that result from a successful strategy. Consequently, Business Week
expressed a masculine conception of individualistic success (given women were
not admitted to military academies at this time) and depicted such success as a
combination of planning and risk-taking strategy in the warlike marketplace.
Indeed, the military distinction would appeal to executives who either fought in
World War II or managed the companies that supported the war effort. Also, the
military metaphor evoked a sense of loyalty between company and executive, just
as military patriotism evokes loyalty between country and soldier. Hence,
epaulettes, as metaphor for business success, justified a sense of entitlement to
34Growth, p. 106-107.; Lonely Pinnacle, p. 120.
31


prestige and honor that countered the 1950s view of the president as uncertain or
insecure about his position or his role.35
This sense of self-confidence in the lead executive extended to confidence
in management methods, as Business Week discussed social relations within
corporations in a manner that implied a resolution of the previous uncertainty. As
noted earlier, the company president worked through people, but the new context
correlated a synonymous or symmetrical relation between the growth of a
company and the professional growth of employees. As such, management skill
involved support for innovation and a tolerance for mistakes, because the success
of an idea could be both the means to promotion for creative employees and the
growth of the company. Business Week praised individualistic approaches to
innovation and noted that lead executives allowed employees freedom to
experiment and to fail. By granting such latitude, chief executives demonstrated
concern for individual potential based on merit. Likely, education buttressed
valuation of individual ability. Business Week recognized that colleges and
universities already turned out high-grade people qualified to operate growth
companies, and it expected growth to continue as schools educated people
capable of managing them. Indeed, the discourse evoked a paternalistic attitude
on the part of the lead executive who facilitated or oversaw the growth of his
employees with openness to independent effort, much like a father watching his
child learn. Through this paternalism, the company president acquired confidence
in his position as an authority figure. He could accommodate the ideas of
subordinate executives without compromising his sense of autonomous capability
by behaving in a pleasing manner. As such, a paternalist attitude countered the
feminine, pleasing personality associated with conformity. Hence, in the
35 Growth, p. 99, 108, 112; Presidents Do, p. 30; Their Jobs, p. 112.
32


discourse at least, human relations carried none of the inclinations toward
conformity on the part of the president, as found in 1956.36
Beyond successful risk-taking and management competence, the new
corporate conglomerates required even greater capacities in the lead executives
than single-industry companies. Because the conglomerates constituted a special
class of business organization, so, Business Week implied, their chief executives
constituted a special class, an elite group leading the business world beyond the
normal boundaries of opportunity. As such, the new conglomerates needed
professionals with singular capabilities. For instance, the lead executive of a
conglomerate must be broad-minded; he must possess the intellectual capacity to
manage the breadth and complexity of multi-product, multi-industry, multi-
market, and multinational organizations, which Business Week explained as a
perspective beyond the specialization of one industry. Moreover, the newly-
formed, large conglomerates constituted a radical break from the past: What is
going on here in the flowering of the conglomerates is that an old order is
breaking down, a new one emerging. Business Week attributed the
transformation of single-industry corporations into large conglomerates to a
masculine form of potency, as connoted by the phallic innuendo in the statement
that sheer management skill is the power behind the projectile, as well as in the
question of whether size matters. The challenge involved creating synergy in a
company of diverse business interests. Again, Business Week evoked historical
memory to elaborate on the responsibility of the new executives by touting their
willingness to face the same kind of challenges, on a far larger scale as did the
old entrepreneurs of American industry.37 Hence, Business Week discourse on
j6 Growth, p. 107-108; Lonely Pinnacle, p. 124.
Such as John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, and Andrew Carnegie, founder of the
company that became U.S. Steel.
33


corporate conglomerates depicted a renaissance in American business culture fed
by the renewal of cultural values applied to contemporary circumstances.
Moreover, masculine sexual creativity fostered cultural renewal and masculine
intellectual power contributed excitement to this renaissance without invoking the
cynicism evident in 1950s irreverence. Hence, the discourse implied an
acceptance of elitism in that the lead executive position had become an attractive
possibility rather than something to be mocked or otherwise derided.
The strength of masculinity expressed in the discourse allowed for
traditional feminine traits to contribute positively to cultural renewal. According
to Business Week, the intellectual sophistication required of the conglomerate
executive involved an artistic sensibility applied to business activities. This
sensibility emerged as the skills to nurture growth, which Business Week
defined as the art of using mergers and acquisitions to build a company. As
such, top managers needed to have a sustained sensitivity to opportunities.
Moreover, the lead corporate executives brought uniqueness to the development
of their companies; Business Week described that uniqueness as a style that
makes itself felt to the larger culture. Thus, practical creativity fostered social
and material progress in American life. But, in contrast to 1960, when making an
impact on American life as a lead corporate executive comprised a status
incentive that justified conformity, in 1967 the feminine qualities of grace,
nurturance, and sensitivity transformed social influence into an avenue of self-
38
expression.
When it embraced positive corporate and social change Business Week
embraced a philosophy of business reflective of countercultural values oriented to
the transformation of daily life. So, in the context of an American-style
renaissance in business culture, Business Weeks adulation for the lead corporate 38
38 Growth, p. 106-107, 112, 115,118; Faster, p. 94.
34


executive suggested confidence centered on countercultural valuesincluding
individuality, creative and intellectual merit, and positive embrace of change
intended to supplant authoritarian power in corporations. As such, Business Week
espoused the values it later associated with CEO iconography in contrast to the
Organization Man stereotype. It depicted the lead executive as individualistic
rather than conformist, risk-taking rather than cautious, open to innovation and
change rather than repressively stable. While this subtle shift countered the
Organization Man stereotype, it issued from the resistance to conformity as
revealed by the irreverent humor and neutral approbation toward the president, as
well as in the explicit question of executive autonomy. The special status of
conglomerate executives forestalled an immediate shift from the bureaucratic,
authoritarian president to the entrepreneurial, egalitarian chief executive. Though
considered entrepreneurial, the conglomerate chief oversaw a bureaucratic
hierarchy with paternalism; however, ideas about management practice developed
rapidly.
In 1969 Business Week expressed enthusiasm for radical change to the
bureaucratic and authoritarian elements of business culture. In the article, A
New Breed of Manager Will Call the Shots, Business Week lauded the potential
of the forthcoming Knowledge Revolution to transform daily corporate life,
particularly as new information technology undermined corporate hierarchy.
Furthermore, knowledge, as the generator of technological advancement, would
replace materials as the primary resource for wealth creation.39 According to
Business Week, changes in the power structure within corporations would
accompany this economic shift, because the nature of information technology
j9 See The Age of Discontinuity, a book mentioned in the article, by Peter Drucker. Drucker
described how technological innovations made prior to 1913 provided the basis for wealth creation
during twentieth century. Those innovations served material economic interests, but late twentieth
century innovations would serve information-based economic interests.
35


prevented control of information and knowledge. This would affect the way
people manage people. Business Week quoted Bernard J. Muller-Thym, a highly
respected thinker about management theory, on the changes:
We are beginning to manage information, and classic
management theory, not to mention classic economic theory
is not much help. They both belong to the Industrial Revolution,
which for all practical purposes ended about 1950.
In other words, non-traditional ideas about corporate culture would replace the
classic theories. Thus, Business Week alluded to a new epoch in business
history, one in which corporate chief executives would need to change their ideas
about management in order to harness the economic power of knowledge-based
technology for their companies.40
With fervent optimism, Business Week justified overturning bureaucratic
hierarchy. Just as the wider dissemination of information would require changes
in organizational process structures, the relationships between top managers and
middle managers would require change as well. Rather than make decisions
themselves, top managers would coordinate decisions made in middle
management. Lead executives would have to anticipate and respond to the
shorter product lifecycle, and this change in the organizational process would
free them to think and plan. This new breed of executive would organize
for innovation and transform ideas into practical proposals. Thus, as noted by
Terrance Hanold, president of Pillsbury Co, management power would become
widely diffused among many energetic and individualistic middle managers.
Hence, a corporation can no longer effectively be directed by a chain of
command. Moreover, Business Week noted, the conditioned reflexes and
hierarchical habits detrimental to the new situation would hamper experienced
40,1 A New Breed of Men Will Call the Shots. Business Week, 6 December 1969, p. 144, 146,148.
36


managers and managers of mature companies. While in the previous article,
epaulettes signified successful military-style business leadership, only two
years later, the chain of command associated with such leadership emerged as
the target for radical change.41
Business Week intensified the attraction of radical change through the
Knowledge Revolution by employing the hyperbolic rhetoric of social dissent.
This rhetoric involved the repetition of notions of freedom, such as the free
flow of information, as well as the term revolution itself. The new manager
would be a Renaissance man using his intellect and applying ideas to the new
technological age, with 1950 as general timeline that distinguished the end of the
Industrial Revolution. Moreover, Business Week depicted the future top
manager in opposition to established rules and policies of the management
hierarchy; he would be an antiprofessional oriented to the role of electronic
technology. Hence, radical rhetoric sanctioned radical action within the
corporate hierarchy in order to achieve success. Consequently, high technology
would foster the shift from bureaucratic, authoritarian executive to the egalitarian,
entrepreneurial executive. The new breed of executive would allow
subordinates the freedom to achieve on the merit of their own ideas, in an
atmosphere of equal opportunity for entrepreneurial-style success within a large
corporation. At its most hopeful, radical change would allow personal control
over ones destiny in that it would facilitate independence in pursuing personal
success. Concurrently, the emphasis on large corporations maintained a sense of
security without conformity. As such, the positive expectations of the future
reflected the idealist tendency in countercultural movements, so these changes
assumed a utopian cast.42
41 Ibid.
42 Ibid.
37


Although Business Week described a set of countercultural values to be
used by managers at every level of an organization, the article anticipated that a
younger generation of executives would lead the Knowledge Revolution.
Younger managers would be more open to team-oriented processes and more
knowledgeable of the intricacies of systems than their predecessors. Because
knowledge formed the basis of these revolutionary changes in management, so
educationrather than experiencewould be more important in attaining top
management positions. As such, Business Week professed, young executives
would be less likely to attain high level management positions through promotion
along a corporate hierarchy. Comfort with technology and related knowledge
would allow them to attain such positions more quickly. Indeed, openness to
change, youthful exuberance, and a fascination with novelty would propel young
executives to the top position. As Xerox chairman Joseph C. Wilson stated: We
are facing a desperate need for innovators and creators ... who understand the
nature of their technological environment and have the courage to act on the new
ideas that will benefit it. As such, Business Week evoked countercultural ethos
in a youthful optimism toward impending changes to be implemented by
courageous innovators. Moreover, future optimism deflected overly critical
commentary on existing corporate hierarchy.43
During the early 1970s, Business Week began to address the inadequacy of
hierarchy in terms of its effects on concrete business activities. Furthermore, it
offered a solution to the problem in a manner that conjoined new languagefrom
which the CEO terminology emergedto a new form of organizational structure.
Second Thoughts on the Office of the President introduced the topic by using
the organizational chart as a symbol of the dilemma:
4j Ibid.; See also Where the Boss Gets an MBA on the Job, Business Week, 8 May 1971, p. 86-
87.
38


The organization chart, with its precisely drawn lines connecting
tidy rows of boxes, makes a corporations top management structure
seem sleek and orderly. But it rarely, if ever, has been. And harried
chief executive officers, symbolized by the box at the top where all
the lines eventually lead, are constantly reminded of that reality.
In contrast to the irreverent tone that concealed cynical criticism during the 1950s,
the humorous tone of this passage reflected a playful irreverence as it
acknowledged directly the chaotic irrationality in daily business. As such,
Business Week still exuded the positive attitude toward corporate life prevalent in
the discourse of the late 1960s. Such enthusiasm encouraged optimism for radical
change toward correcting the inadequacies of the corporate structure. Moreover,
the passage conveyed empathy toward overly busy chief executive officers who
attempted to lead in a rational mannerthrough a rational process structure
only to find disorder. Not only did this attitude contrast with the cynicism toward
the same problem during the 1950s, it exemplified another characteristic of
countercultural movements, to bring a humanistic outlook to a specific problem.
As such, the discourse reflected awareness of human limitations and capabilities
in a manner that suggested an opportunity for positive change.
The embrace of change emerged explicitly as Business Week advocated a
specific method for addressing the flaws in corporate hierarchy: restructuring top
level management. The article described the European model of management
structure in which three or more executives shared the responsibilities of the top
office, though one held the chief executive position. This multiple chief
executive function44 allowed the chief executive to handle long-range planning,
organizational evaluation, public visibility, and civic responsibilities while the
other lead executives took responsibility for day-to-day management.
Significantly, rather than leave the final decision to the chief executive, any one
44 ie. chief executive officer, chief operating officer, and chief financial officer.
39


member could make a decision in the absence of the other. A structure for
managing complexity, the implementation of this structure constituted deviance
from conventional ideas about organizational structure, the techniques
acceptable to [the chief executives] peers: decentralization, profit centers, staff
specialization. These conventions of management practice still concentrated
power, hindered open self-expression, and stalled change. Moreover,
implementation of the multiple chief executive structure acted as a relinquishment
of management dogma that the lone competent chief executive could handle
all the primary responsibilities of a major corporation. Borden President and
Chief Executive Officer Augustine R. Marusi commented that the structure
allowed him to communicate with... associates in a way that transcends the
inhibitions existing in a traditional line organization. In other words, the limits
of convention needed to be overcome through radical changes in corporate
structure. Such radicalism involved a change in outlook to one that recognized
power and ability among several competent executives. Furthermore, the phrase,
office of the president, connoted a change in the physical space of the lead
executive to accommodate the other executives. Presumably, the new
organizational structure and organizational space would counter the isolation of
the top executive, as described by Business Week previously. Hence, in
advocating a transformation of the structure of power at the top of organization
hierarchy, Business Week implied that success required radical change because
harried chief executives could not accomplish organizational goals alone. By
acknowledging the spectrum of power at the top of the corporate organization and
by creating opportunities for autonomous achievement within that spectrum, the
top executive could assure the success of the company.45
"Second Thoughts on the Office of the President, Business Week, 3 October 1970, pp. 42-45;
Lonely Pinnacle, pp. 118.
40


Business Week highlighted the novelty of the management structure for
American corporations, doing so in a manner that revealed divergent attitudes
toward radical change. First, only a few companies had adopted the method, such
as Caterpillar Tractor Company, during the 1950s, and General Electric, Scott
Paper, Singer, Continental Can, Ampex, and Borden, during the late 1960s. Thus,
Business Week identified allies in the cause of organizational change. Then,
Business Week looked at the potential pitfalls, for instance that the structure could
create more bureaucracy, as General Electric had been accused. The article
warned that a minority of corporations used this style of leadership, so it had no
solid consistency as a management concept. The opinion of Peter Drucker,
respected management professor and scholar, provided the voice of the status quo.
He described the traits required of the new structuremutual respect,
communication, and self-disciplinein order to maintain ethical boundaries
among the executives and with the rest of the organization. Moreover, he
maintained that the shape of the presidents office would be tailored to what
the chief executive in power wants it to be. Thus, Drucker advocated for a single
lead executive at the top of the organization hierarchy. Although Business Weeks
inclusion of Druckers opinion contributed both wisdom and resistance to change,
it denoted a democratic openness to different views that facilitated a
determination of how a novel idea might work. While 1950s discourse alluded to
the illusion of rational order in management hierarchy and 1960s discourse
revealed growing sophistication about humanistic aspects of management
practice, in 1970, Business Week described changes actually occurring to repair
the problem. Moreover, change began to generate controversy, indicating that
business counterculture was becoming divisive in its identification of allies for
and opponents to change.46
"^Second Thoughts, p. 42-43.
41


Specific identification of opposition to change occurred in the context of
management succession, the practice of grooming individuals for promotion up .
the organizational hierarchy. The topic evoked an adversarial tone in the article,
The Men Who Still Hang on to the Reins. The story involved retired managers
who lingered on a committee or the board of directors and prevented a successor
from leading the company independently with his own ideas. Business Week
described men with hanging-on syndrome as iron-willed or autocratic or as
the domineering one-man band. In a related problem, chief executives,
company founders, or family heirs who held ultimate powerhuge blocks of
voting stock retained positions of power and stalled management development
and promotions. Hence, Business Week identified readily observable
manifestations of authoritarianism at the top of the corporate hierarchy.
Furthermore, Business Weeks explicit word choice comprised a blatant criticism,
in contrast to previous discourse. During the 1950s irreverent humor muffled
direct criticism, but during the 1960s optimism and idealism hid persistent flaws.
During the 1970s, the realistic implementation of ideals required executives to
address directly the hindrances to success. According to Business Week, these
men hindered the effectiveness of companies to achieve their goals. Such
managers lost potential successors to other companies, particularly as
management recruiters became a more active and pervasive influence in matters
of personal success. Thus, beyond naming the problem, individual success
became an active concern and demanded not just competitiveness, but a radical
attitude about existing power. Hence, radical action confronted the conflict
between the dominant executive and the new executive, particularly between the
founder or heir of dubious ability, on the one hand, and the individual of merit
represented by the professional manager on the other hand. Hence, success was
becoming defined by a radical ethic, through which power issues at the root of
changewhich hindered changebecame a concern in the discourse. The
42


radical success ethic emerged in the willingness of executives to foster autonomy
within the corporate structure and the willingness of executives to express
autonomy in the move to another corporation.47
The issue of succession provided further opportunity to express a radical
ethos in relation to the tradition of the corporate success ladder, a concern
which revealed a subtler form of authoritarian behavior. In Why Companies go
Outside for New Bosses, discourse turned to the trend of boards of directors to
hire chief executives from other companies. Business Week referred to the rise
from executive trainee to the lead corporate position as part of the folklore of
industry, and considered the practice of outside hiring as counter to tradition.
Though Business Week acknowledged Alfred P. Sloan, former chief executive of
General Motors, for his innovation of manager development in preparation of
succession, that process was fraught with problems. Many presidents failed to
develop potential candidates for succession, a problem that Business Week
attributed to the reluctance of many executives to surround themselves with truly
strong, creative managers capable of actively competing for the presidents
position. Thus, Business Week exposed how chief executives retained their
positions in power. As such, Business Week revealed a subtle form of
authoritarianism that arose from an emotional undercurrent of insecurity in the
succession process, whether conscious or unconscious. This problem hindered
the success of executives who waited for promotions at all levels of an
organization. While executive employment was never static, Business Week
discourse evoked a sense of mobility as a radical act against the tradition of
success within the bureaucratic structure of one company. Individual freedom
trumped tradition in that mobility implied freedom to succeed along an individual
47 The Men Who Still Hang on to the Reins, Business Week, 2 October 1971, p. 40,42;
43


path, rather than one determined by a paternalistic but intimidated chief
executive.48
Further, board directors became concerned with overturning the pretenses
of rational, bureaucratic as well. They recognized that a groomed successor may
utilize the methods of the 1960s, already considered out-of-date in the early
1970s. The issues of the day demanded new perspectives and ideas; therefore,
hiring an outsider connoted nonconformity with the way things had been done,
with a companys existing business culture. Moreover, these concerns revealed
competitiveness in the desire to be on the leading edge of management practice.
Whoever held the position of leadership must be willing to apply novel and
innovative management ideas. Hence, Business Week discourse described another
method of breaking from the established convention of rational management
structure, to embrace change by hiring from outside. The discourse revealed the
extent to which the countercultural ethos infused business culture, in that it
reached the board of directors.49
Thus Business Week discourse revealed a shift from irreverent cynicism to
countercultural idealism. Though the first shades of controversy emerged in the
discourse of the early 1970s, overall Business Week evoked positive intention
toward changing established management practices. Moreover, Business Week
expected new technology to manifest in real business development during the
1970s and, by implication, to serve to overturn the hierarchical status quo.50 But
unexpected economic and political events generated dramatic change which
delayed such progress. Consequently, utopian idealism yielded to tension as the
societal turmoil of the early 1970s forced corporations and their chief executives
4Why Companies go Outside for New Bosses, Business Week, 26 February 1972, p. 82-83.
49 Ibid.
50 New Breed, p. 144.
44


to contend with conflicting corporate and public issues. As further examination
of the discourse shows, Business Weeks manner of handling these issues
advanced the evolution of countercultural idealism to a radical success ethic in
surprising ways. In this context, the chief executive officer became the prominent
corporate position in Business Week, and CEO terminology appeared suddenly in
the discourse.
Radical Relations at the Threshold of Change
During the early 1970s, Business Week began to discuss the chief
executive position in terms of various crises, particularly those caused by
widespread political and social action. Though noted in previous articles, two
articles focused specifically on these concerns, Old Bosses Bequeath New
Problems, and The Chief Executives Job Gets More Difficult, published in
January 1972 and January 1973, respectively. The variety of public and corporate
issues pressing for the attention of corporate chief executives included declining
profits, rising inflation, and wage-price controls; worker job dissatisfaction;
shareholder activism; international expansion amidst the rise of nationalism
abroad; and the need to keep pace with technological developments as well as
day-to-day operations. Also, Business Week addressed new technology,
diversification, and international expansion in less enthusiastic terms than in
previous articles; they became compounding problems rather than growth
opportunities. Furthermore, the overlap of corporate and public concerns
involved the need for social awareness on issues once peripheral to business
operations, such as pollution control, womens rights, minority hiring, and
consumerism. Critics, such as Ralph Nader, challenged materialistic notions of
social progress and the idea of growth as positive social good. Public criticism
45


stimulated an impetus to demonstrate that continued economic growth is indeed
desirable. The Securities and Exchange Commission became more critical of
corporate decisions as well.51 52 Though not noted in the discourse, confrontation
with these issues coincided with the collapse of the stock market in late 1969,
public disaffection with the Vietnam War, the suddenness of the 1973 energy
crisis, and the controversy over the Watergate Scandal in 1974. Changes in
corporate operations as they interfaced with public issues placed pressures on the
chief executive officer in a manner that furthered the development of the radical
success ethic.
The effects of social and political turmoil on corporations prompted
Business Week to compile a special report, The chief executive officer, in the
May 4,1974, issue. On the cover, a simple acrylic painting illustrated the chief
executive officer, depicted from behind, as a man sitting in a high back chair with
his desk and a clear, empty room in front of him. The following statement
accompanied the artists credit: The chief executive, alone at the top, is the man
with the powerto run his company and to change it. Business Week
introduced the special report with the following summary in the Table of
Contents:
The chief executive officer: The entrepreneur who owned his
business has already given way to the hired professional who
only manages it. Now bigness and social turmoil are changing
the CEOs role again. He will share more managerial
responsibilities with others and spend more time being the
envoy from his company to the outside world.53
51 Old Bosses Bequeath New Problems, Business Week, 1 January 1972, p. 50-51; The Chief
Executives Job Gets More Difficult, Business Week 6 January 1973, p. 52-53; Second
Thoughts, p. 42-45; Outside, p. 82-83; see also More room at the top for marketing men,
August 12, 1972, p. 27.
52 Artists Credit, Business Week 4 May 1974, p. 1.
5j [Summary,] Business Week 4 May 1974, p. 1.
46


Thus, Business Week established the chief executive officer as the focal point for
addressing the crises and anticipated that the very nature of the chief executives
office would change. Furthermore, the sudden emergence of the CEO title in
discourse accompanied this change, setting the stage for the development of new
iconography in business culture.
In the lead article, The Top Man Becomes Mr. Outside, Business Week
described a dynamic of power relations which provoked the change; specifically,
it repeated frequently the notion of a conflict between society and the corporation.
Citizens demands for corporate social responsibility resulted in legislation for
equal employment opportunity for women and people of color, environmental
protection, consumer safety, worker safety, and other issues, and Congressional
committees obliged CEOs to address these matters. Previously, the lead corporate
executive spent approximately ten percent of his time dealing with government
affairs, but beginning in the late 1960s the burden increased to one-third or more
of working hours. Moreover, according to Business Week, only the chief
executive officer held the power to address the issues, because to the outside
world, he is the company. Thus, the emergence of the CEO title in the discourse
accompanied a crisis of power in American society, raising questions of who will
speak and be heard, who will sway public opinion and influence Congressional
leaders.54
In outlining the dimensions of the conflicts, the discourse raised a question
of whose truth and ideas would determine the future of the American economic
system. Business Week depicted the complex forces for change as a threat to the
American free enterprise system, noting that 75% of the American public
believes that large corporations have already grown too powerful for the good of
54 The Top Man Becomes Mr. Outside, Business Week 4 May 1974, p. 38-42.
47


the country. Fletcher L. Byron, chairman of Koppers Co., stated a fear that the
system could do without the CEO all together: There is a danger that the public
will decide there is a better way of organizing to produce wealth. The
responsibility for addressing that threat rested with the CEO: Yet if the CEO
shirks his new-found role as social arbiter, the assaults being directed against
business today could grow so intense that they might well force fundamental
change in the nature of the American corporation. In its depiction of the threat
and insistence that the CEO assert power, Business Week portrayed the CEO as
the prospective hero of business. Business Week emphasized the imperative by
quoting Lawrence E. Fouraker, then dean of the Harvard Business School:
There are relatively few heroes in the business community. Most businessmen
would prefer to remain anonymous.55 Hence, in locating the CEO as the focal
point of contentious power relations, Business Week became a radical actor in
targeting the CEO as a center of power that needed to change.
As a radical actor, Business Week bluntly used the external political
situation to gain leverage for transforming the status quo within organizations.
First, Business Week pressed the CEO into action by criticizing his
shortsightedness about the effects of social changehe should have seen the
conflict developingthen excused the error on grounds that the complexity of
large conglomerates required much attention. Business Week stated, But it is
very hard for the CEO, trained as a doer rather than a conceptualizer to see
beyond the confines of his own business. However, the CEO could have
prepared for the conflicts by experimenting with management techniques which
freed him to address political and social issues outside the company. By weight
of emphasis in the discourse, Business Week endorsed power-sharing, the
delegation of responsibilities to other executives through the multiple chief
55 Ibid, p. 38-42.
48


executive function and through increased decision-making authority down the line
of management. Hence, in the imperative to change management structure to
allow for a democratic form of decision-making power, Business Week offered a
solution that evoked a radical attitude toward management practice. Indeed,
corporations that restrained such freedom encountered dissent from within by
young executives who demand to be involved. As James B. Farley, president
of consulting firm Booz, Allen, & Hamilton, stated, to gain their commitment,
You have to give them a forum in which to express their ideas. Similarly,
McKinsey & Company consultant Alonzo L. McDonald recommended a non-
authoritarian approach in the knowledge that executives wont implement ideas
that they dont like or that are pushed on them. Hence, the resistance to authority
implicit in 1950s discourse became explicit in 1974. Moreover, the atmosphere of
social dissent outside of corporationsand frequently against corporationswas
accompanied by dissent within corporations. While women and minorities sought
CEO attention in order to gain equal access to the economic system, those with
accessthe young, white male executivesdemanded another kind of equality:
to express and implement their own ideas within that system. Thus, Business
Week acted as an ally to executives seeking changes in the power structure of
corporations, by confronting the issues that blocked such change.56
Business Week found allies among various management consultants who
advocated democratic power-sharing in the corporation. Harlan Cleveland, author
of The Future Executive, depicted new power relations within corporations as
systems of interlaced webs of tension in which control is loose, power diffuse,
and centers of decision plural. Thus Cleveland employed an ecological image
of the circular spider webto illuminate on an organic concept of natural human
interaction that would counter the technocratic mindset of the management
56 Ibid.
49


bureaucrat. Similarly, McKinsey & Co.s McDonald expected changes in
management practice to liberate corporate life from the pretense of formality.
Communication within corporations would become more casual, with employees
at different levels of the corporate hierarchy interacting on a first-name basis in
order to equalize relations and facilitate communication of ideas: He will like
people, be a good negotiator, accept less than perfection, be calm under pressure.
McDonald described the changes as egalitarian in principle. Hence, equalizing
power relations through relaxed, open self-expression provided equal opportunity
for success based on merit. As such, the radical ethic reflected the democratic
tendency of a countercultural movement.57
In contrast to previous discourse on organizational structure, which
emphasized effective management practice, in 1974 Business Week provided a
straightforward analysis of power relations as they related to the democratic ethos.
Significantly, the realignment of organizational structure demanded that the CEO
accept a different power relationship with other managers: The typical CEO has
fought hard to gain the power that exists at the top, and it will be very difficult to
get him to modify that tremendous drive in the interest of consensus
management. Higher standards of accountability for the CEO added to the
complexity of change. Management consultant Alonzo L. McDonald noted, The
increasing complexity means a certain powerlessness on the part of the chief
executive. The quality of the CEOs decision-making used to be his real
contribution. Now the decision is not so personalized. Nevertheless, Business
Week repeatedly affirmed CEO power, frequently noting that the CEO is
responsible: ... the burden of changing the chief executives role falls most
heavily on the CEO himself simply because there is no one else with authority to
do it. Widespread ownership of public stock created a situation whereby the
57 Ibid.; see also Personal Management Styles, Business Week, 4 May 1974, p. 43-45.
50


corporation owns itself, as noted by Richard N. Goodwin, author of The
American Condition. Widespread public ownership meant that corporate boards
were often passive or ineffective and left responsibility to the CEO, though a
minor shareholder (at that time) who held the office for a short period of time.
Thus Business Week reaffirmed: It is the CEO who has the power. A graphic
of punch buttons denoted kinds of CEO power, as the initiator to merge, sell
bonds, and close plant; the caption stated: The CEO is the one man who must
make things happen. Hence, Business Week attempted to negotiate the need for
CEO attention to the social conflicts by offering CEOs public power outside the
corporation in exchange for power concessions within the corporation.
Furthermore, Business Week emerged as an astute political strategist for radical
ends by leveraging the demands of public affairs to abolish hierarchical
ro
management practices and to promote manager autonomy.
As a radical actor promoting revolutionary change in corporate life,
Business Week outlined the scope of CEO public power in an editorial, The
scenario for tomorrows executive, by Carl Burgen. First, Burgen defined the
CEOs role in corporate social responsibility as one of fillfilling an obligation of
public accountability in the context of the power of big government and big
business, in which the demarcation between the two was often indistinct. While
Burgen expressed concern for business as an institution and for the interest of
stockholders (that corporations operate profitably), he asserted that the CEO held
the decision-making power to lead a sociological revolution: to hire and to
promote women and minorities; to pollute or to protect the environment; and to
invest in or to divest out of communities, making them prosperous or
destitute. As an integral part of society, the corporation must adapt to social
circumstances; but the CEO must defend his company. Burgen articulated an 58
58 Mr. Outside, p. 39,41-42.
51


imperative that the CEO redefine the role of the corporation by formulating a
socially responsible style of corporate management, one in which the CEO could
resolve the conflicts between shareholders, on the one hand, and public
constituents, such as consumers, environmentalists, and women and minorities, on
the other hand. Hence, Burgen outlined CEO public leadership intended to
alleviate fear of communistic or socialistic influences in American society, as
mentioned in the lead article, that the public would change the systems wealth
producing structure and eliminate the CEO. In so doing, Burgen defined the
limits of the radical ethic: change must be geared to maintaining the capitalist
economic system. Hence, by delineating the capitalist system as the means to
resolving social problems and equating the CEO with both social change and
capitalist values, Business Week marked him simultaneously as leader of radical
change and a symbol of capitalist values.59
Burgen elaborated on the CEOs function as radical leader. Specifically,
Burgen delineated CEO leadership in dichotomous terms when he opposed the
style of the CEO to the role of the Organization Man. For a definition of
the latter, Burgen referred to Frank A. Armstrong, author of Memos to
Management, who described the Organization Man as someone of unquestioning
loyalty to the corporation and unconcerned with individuality: reconciled to his
role of serving big companies. As such, the notion of initiating change in the
goals of a corporation or in the nature of corporate life would be antithetical to
him: He almost never doubted the worth of these goals nor the worth and
importance of his role. Conversely, management consultant McDonald assessed
CEO style in terms of accountability: Every once of status and power must be
balanced by a corresponding level of moral responsibility toward the organization
59 Burgen, Carl, The Scenario for Tomorrows Executive, Business Week, 4 May 1974, p. 83-84;
Mr. Outside, p. 38.
52


and its constituents. Hence, the CEO himself becomes radical in that he leads
change away from actions based on a self-interested status quo, toward a success
ethic enlightened (or re-enlightened) by an openness to change and to
individuality in making moral decisions. Burgen concluded, Personal aims will
have to be sacrificed, but not for some blind faith in the corporation. Hence,
Burgen called upon the CEO to support social change in a manner that redefined
the terms of social status. As such, Business Week offered a more and less
personalized form of social status. Personal moral choices would be made in the
context of corporate management in exchange for concessions of superficial
forms of social status based on personal material wealth and a paternalistic
position on top of the corporate hierarchy. Such moral authority gave the CEO
cultural power for buttressing the status of the American capitalist system. As
such, the CEO as radical leader would prove capitalism to be a moral economic
system.60
To buttress the status of the existing economic system, Burgen oriented
the radical ethic to perceived generational differences in a manner that sought to
elevate the CEO as a radical leader and, in turn, to reduce the socialist/communist
threat. Burgen considered social change an evolutionary thing, with one kind of
man to create the companies, another to transform them into diversified
multinational organizations, and yet another to mesh todays corporation into the
broader framework of society. Burgen contended that a younger generation of
executives would completely reconcile conflicts between shareholders interests
and societys interests. Moreover, Burgen encouraged the younger generation to
participate in business as an avenue of sociological revolution, that is, to use a
career in business to create economic and social equality through a shared quality
of life. Such executives would be educated and trained for a different set of
60 Burgen, Scenario, p. 83-84; Whyte, Organization Man, p. 54.
53


priorities, and corporations would have to adjust or risk alienating potential
chief executives needed in the future. The tendency of youth at this time (the late
1960s and early 1970s) to reject business as an occupational choice intensified the
imperative for then-present CEOs to change the corporation so as to attract a pool
of candidates for the lead executive position. Of course, to the extent that
attitudes expressed by Burgen succeeded in attracting young people to business
occupations, they carried potential to diffuse the perceived threat to the capitalist
system. Hence, the CEO emerged as a cultural icon for the preservation of the
American free enterprise system and for the expression of democratic values
within that system. Together, these two aspects comprised CEO iconography at
its genesis in 1974.61
New approaches to education comprised the practical preparation of
present and future executives to succeed in the context of corporate and social
power relations. In The Executive Needs a Catholicity of Interests, Business
Week described how major business schools addressed social issues by shifting
the knowledge base from a quantitative perspective, which is mathematical and
mechanistic, to a humanistic perspective, which involves decisions that affect
people. For instance, during the late 1960s, Stanford University had purged
specialized fields of study and replaced them with classes directed to general
management skills and business concerns in the political environment, such as
poverty and government process. Also, educators began to integrate ethics into
all aspects of the curriculum. Given these kinds of educational adjustment to
social conditions, Ted Brannen, Dean of the School of Business Administration at
the University of Southern California, predicted that the larger culture would no
longer define the tone and philosophy of business organization; corporate culture
would become the domain of the CEO. Moreover, as Cleveland suggested in The
61 Burgen, Scenario, p. 84.
54


Future Executive, the top executive would play a role in formulating and
developing public purpose. John Hennessey Jr. of Dartmouths Amos Tuck
School of business stated, The top man must be a repository of wisdom on
values and values clashes. As such, the CEO needed to be more well-rounded,
a negotiator as well as a manager, a social man as well as a business executive.
In short, he must be a universal man. Hence, in the discussion on the practical
preparation for present and future executives, Business Week reiterated the scope
of power on the part of the CEO and placed him in a dominant position in society,
as a cultural leader both within the corporation and in the political realm. Business
Week sought to supercede public initiative in societal change beyond its control.
In other words, a new status quo defined by citizen action in the larger society
challenged the status quo of corporate power that took shape during and after
World War II. Business Week discourse reflected a desire to shift the balance of
power in favor of corporate leadership on public issues. Shaping executive
leadership from college age would cultivate corporate power for the future. In so
doing, Business Week presented humanistic aspects of CEO iconography which
appealed to the countercultural or radical tendencies of students. This wasn't a
counterrevolutiona counterrevolution would try to halt changes in progress.
Shaping corporate leadership for the future was an attempt to join the social
revolution and to commandeer it so as to resolve the crisis of power in a manner
that perpetuated the American free enterprise system.
As Business Week sought to adapt the corporate success model to the new
power relations, Business Week highlighted education that strengthened individual
autonomy, particularly in pluralistic social relations. The B-School Still Breeds
the Winners described the Harvard Business Schools use of case studies to
integrate social concerns with general management in order to teach students how
62 The Executive Needs a Catholicity of Interests, Business Week, 4 May 1974, p. 54-55.
55


to think from the perspective of a CEO. Harvard based its management
philosophy on the idea that ability is self-discovered and that students
developed an intuitive decision-making ability through the analysis of hundreds of
case studies. Harvard incorporated into the case studies the problems of
contemporary social issues, such as minority hiring. The pedagogy implied that
social concerns would be naturally integrated into the students decision-making
process when they became executives. Indeed, Fouraker noted, the complex
human issues were the most exciting for Harvard business students.
Consequently, Harvard produced a curriculum designed to develop individual
ability along non-rational lines. In addition to countering the technocratic
mindset, affirmation of intuitive ability recognized the individual as the seat of
power and constituted a radical de-centering of power. Its practice would transfer
power from position or standard operating procedure to the responsive individual.
A valorization of intuitive, humanistic concepts of being defined a radical ethic in
implicit contrast not only to the values of the Organization Man, but to the
paternalistic conceptions of management espoused during the 1960s.63
The shift from a countercultural to a radical ethos involved challenging
notions of elitism as it related to education. In the previous article Business Week
noted that Harvard graduates directed approximately one in twelve of the largest
corporations in the United States.64 But in The Old School Tie is Becoming Old
Hat, Business Week claimed diversity in the backgrounds of CEOs in order to
present a democratic image of business life. The article began: The square-
jawed Presbyterian from a wealthy family and an Ivy League school may still be
the executive suite stereotype, but in todays fluid society the chief executive may
6j The B-School Still Breeds the Winners, Business Week, 4 May 1974, p. 55-56.
64 Ibid.
56


also be a product of humble beginnings or an unusual background. Business
Week went on to describe the working class or first-generation American
backgrounds of several chief executives. According to Business Week, sons of an
existing aristocracy of wealththe heirs of the entrepreneurs who founded the
large corporations and the sons of executives and professional menno longer
dominated business life. Business Week identified an aristocracy of
achievement, as described by Harlan Cleveland, in which excellence and merit
determined success, rather than family connections, elite education, or similar
factors of exclusivity. This meritocracy constituted social equality in business
activities, particularly as corporations began to recruit women and minorities from
business graduate schools. Hence, Business Week lauded merit to convey the
availability of corporate power to those outside the existing corporate elite. This
stance brought attention to the potential of business activities to redress social
inequality. Also, it created a contemporary radical ethic for success on par with
its originsthe self-made entrepreneurs who displaced the landed gentry as the
exclusive elite of American wealth. During the 1970s, the radical ethic demanded
an individualistic attitude toward the status quo of corporate social power, being
responsible to redress that power by developing ones talents and abilities and
asserting them in the free enterprise system.65
If the radical ethic involved challenges to notions of exclusivity, then its
development involved challenging the value of status and power as desirable
pursuits and cultural traits. As such, Business Week reflected on the daily life of
the CEO in Not much time for anything but work, an article similar to the 1957
article, At Top, Its All Work No Play. Both articles expressed a concern about
the time commitment to perform the job, particularly as it related to leisure and
65 The Old School Tie is Becoming Old Hat, Business Week 4 May 1974, p. 40.
57


family life; however, the two articles differ in several ways. Business Week
opened the 1974 article:
The chief executive officer is a commanding figure in American
society. He is successful in his chosen career, financially well-off,
and able to live and play in a style that few people can. For all that,
his life tends to be one-dimensionalthe job comes first, the
personal life is squeezed into whatever is left over.
So, while in 1957 Business Week commended dedication, described company
presidents as symbols of success, and noted their leadership role as expanding,
in 1974 Business Week depicted CEOs as an elite whose choices are to be
doubted. Business Week criticized the CEO by labeling him as one-
dimensional, probably an accord with Herbert Marcuses leftist social critique,
One-Dimensional Man. Business Week addressed family matters with some
detail, for instance, describing communication issues with children. However, in
contrast to 1957, Business Week noted hobbies and recreational interests of CEOs
in a manner that suggested a diversity of personal preferences that defied
conformity. Indeed, while golf and boating remained popular, Business Week
noted eccentric pursuits, such as growing orchids and restoring antique cars, in a
manner that deemed them acceptable. As in 1957, Business Week commented
soberly about lack of time to indulge in such pursuits, however. Civic activities
tended to center on education, as the Watergate scandal of 1974 dissuaded
political activities. This lack of political action illuminated Business Weeks
purpose with the special report on the chief executive officerto instigate
political action, a radical act in itself.66
66 Not much time for anything but work. Business Week, 4 May 1974, p. 70-72; All Work, p.
45-46; See also, The Americanization of the foreign CEO, Business Week, 4 May, 1974, p. 73,
76-78, which provides a comparison of cultural norms which affect foreign CEOs differently than
American CEOs.
58


Thus, though the implicit differentiation between Organization Man
management values and countercultural management values occurred during the
1960s, the genesis of CEO iconographyin explicit opposition between the CEO
and the Organization Manoccurred concurrently with the emergence of the
CEO title in discourse. As the radical ethos developed amidst a diverse set of
power relations, the CEO iconography in discourse became directly related to the
shift from business counterculture to radical management movement. Hence, the
concept of the CEO, as a leader of change, influenced notions of how to succeed
under the political and social conditions of the timeby being radical in their
approach to corporate change. As such, the Organization Man, as an icon of
established management power, provided an image for CEOs (or prospective
CEOs) to rebel against. Moreover, rebellion against the Organization Man
iconography provided fodder for confronting ongoing economic uncertainty,
foreign competition, and a period of low confidence in the United States after
Richard Nixon resigned as president of the United States in August 1974 and after
a humiliating end to the Vietnam War in 1975. But while Business Week
prescribed certain kinds of changes in management practice, only intuition
emerged as a defining trait, particularly in terms of internal company human
relations. This lack of a clear set of traits as pragmatic, guiding principles
indicated the transitional state of the radical ethic, which the CEO came to
represent.
Executive Power in Chaos
Between 1976 and 1983, Business Week discourse revealed turmoil within
corporations as the radical ethic gained a footing in business success values. The
discourse exposed open conflicts and power struggles among the upper echelon of
59


corporate executives: the president and/or chief executive officer, senior
executives, the board chairman, and board directors. During this chaotic period,
the presidents position came to be considered second to the chief executive or
chairman, as referred to by the 1976 article, The No. 2 Mans in the Hot Seat.
Because one person often held both the president and chief executive positions,
and in order to present a clear focus for leadership, Business Week identified the
president specifically as second in command, often as chief operating officer
(COO). Furthermore, as COO, he provided a convenient scapegoat in instances
of poor financial performance; and he either resigned or was fired unexpectedly.
Thus, implementation of the multiple chief executive function, advocated as a
radical method of restructuring power at the top of the corporate hierarchy,
contributed to the atmosphere of contention. It had not developed a solid
consistency, as Business Week warned in 1970. Indeed, in a few cases, high
level executives ignored the conventions of hierarchal organization: Today
frustrated executives are much less reluctant than they used to be to go over a
presidents head to the chairmanor even over the chairmans head to friends on
the boardwhen they have grievances about the way things are going.
Voluntary resignations were prompted by the dilution of authority and
responsibilities among several executives, by conflicting views on management
philosophy, and by high-level placement opportunities at smaller companies. In
commenting on the increased interest for outside job offers, an executive recruiter
stated, There is a lot of unhappiness. Conflict caused employee dissatisfaction
at the highest levels of an organization. Thus, shifting power relations resulted in
a confusion of roles as well as a refusal to be limited by ones position in the
corporate hierarchy. In this sense, self-expression and liberation from
bureaucratic hierarchy shifted from a countercultural ideal to the reality of a
60


radical confrontation with authority. Hence, chaos and conflict were both cause
and effect of the radicalization of success values.67
Business Week attempted to negotiate conflicts and bring order to chaos by
presenting ideas that reflected the business countercultural ethos for open,
democratic self-expression. In a 1978 article, The New Planning: Switching
Entrepreneurial Spirit from the CEO to Middle Management, Business Week
advocated a structure which defined power and status among managers at all
levels of an organization. First, Business Week rationalized its recommended
changes by chastising caretaker CEOs who focused on short-term profit, a
problem that resulted in slow growth and poor return on investment over the long
term. Business Week expected the chief executive to manage concerns beyond
basic operations, a change that transferred entrepreneurial power from the CEO to
middle management. While line managers took the entrepreneurial risks, cautious
CEOs needed to attune to a changing environment. The CEO needed to take
risks at another level, for instance, by a willingness to halt a project that might fail
given unexpected changes, either in technology or in the market. As such,
Business Week defined the CEO as a strategic planner: This is exclusively the
chief executives function. Business Week described this integration of strategy
at the level of individual business units with a cohesive corporate strategy as the
vanguard of management practice. As a ringmaster who coordinated the
activities of business unit managers, CEO responsibility involved supporting
long-term goals by allocating research and development funds and by linking
bonuses to long-term strategy, not only to annual performance. This strategic
focus would prevent CEOs from meddling in the work of business unit
activities. Hence, rather than take entrepreneurial power away from CEOs, as the
article title alluded, Business Week reconstituted entrepreneurialism for the
67 No. 2 man, p. 25-26; Second Thoughts, p. 42-43.
61


purposes of large, publicly-owned entities by attributing such power to both the
CEO and line managers:
The new style of planning, which requires line managers to be
creative, flexible, and entrepreneurial, could end up breeding a new
type of CEOone whose success is based on the entrepreneurial
qualities that built todays corporations.
Thus, Business Week advocated a restructuring of power relations in a manner
that allowed for entrepreneurial achievement and success among all executives.
Moreover, Business Week contended that strategy should be attuned to the
corporations public persona; that persona would be represented by the CEO.
Therefore, the CEO needed to differentiate his identity from those of other
executives in order to share recognition with them. Hence, Business Week sought
to compensate the loss of power and status of the CEO as entrepreneur with gains
in power and status as strategist and public person by redefining entrepreneurship
in the context of the large business organization.68
Business Week sought to negotiate executive conflicts in situations where
a new chief executive contended with a founder or former chief executive still
dominant in the decision-making process, as discussed in the 1980 article,
Following the Corporate Legend. Business Week suggested that a new CEO
slow the implementation of his own ideas, or risk termination. Rather than
advocate for an appropriate relinquishment of power that could positively affect
the success of companies and individuals, Business Week advocated an
acquiescent stance intended to minimize conflict and chaos. By placing the CEO
in the subordinate position and by asking the new CEO to placate the ego of the
former executive, this recommendation contradicted the radical ethic. Instead of
advocating that the subordinate executive be allowed to freely pursue his own
68 The New Planning: Switching Entrepreneurial Spirit from the CEO to Middle Management,
Business Week, 11 December 1978, p. 62-66.
62


ideas, Business Week conveyed a muddled uncertainty. Contradiction and
uncertainty indicated the transitional state of the success ethic during the
economic turbulence, which marked the 1970s and early 1980s69
Throughout this period of confusion of roles and responsibilities among
top executives, Business Week continually reaffirmed CEO corporate hegemony.
Anarchy was not an acceptable radical principle, particularly with the business
economy at a nadir. For this reason, in a 1983 cover story, Turnover at the Top,
Business Week described the vulnerability of the CEO in an sympathetic manner.
Success at the top was hindered by economic recession, hostile takeovers and
mergers that created redundant positions, proxy battles, foreign competition, and
federal deregulation of telecommunications and other industries, which invited
new domestic competition. These problems heightened the scrutiny of investors
who, in turn, thwarted executive risk-taking. The notion that someones got to
be accountable [for lackluster performance] created uncertainty in the CEO
position. Business Week depicted CEOs as victims of an accelerating trend
toward insecurity, which manifested in alterations to the process of corporate
succession practices as board directors sought replacements from outside the
company. Consequently, CEOs ceased to identify themselves strongly with the
companies they led. As Stephen R. Hardis, an active board director and retired
executive, stated: The sense of ownership of the job has changed radically.
Nevertheless, corporate boards sought to protect CEOs from the uncertainties of
the times with golden parachutes, lucrative severance packages provided in
cases of sudden termination, whether voluntary or involuntary. Hence,
affirmation of CEO hegemony defined the limits of the radical ethos, in that a
single, central position of power would continue to oversee corporate activities,
even if shareholder interests played a greater role in his decisions. Indeed,
69 Corporate Legend, p. 62-68.
63


shareholder activism ensured the hegemony of the capitalist profit motive in those
70
decisions.
The radical ethic critique of executive power re-emerged in the Business
Week discourse as the economy rebounded. In the 1984 article Chief Executives
Who Wont Let Go, inadequate succession practice provided cause for
discussing management power issues. Business Week listed several reasons CEOs
retained their positions. They were: founders who love their work; men with
strong personalities, denoted by a steely ... grip; CEOs with a valuable
longevity of experience; and CEOs who did not groom an appropriate successor.
McKinsey & Co. management consultant Jude T. Rich described the primary
problemthe lack of a successorin terms of a territorial insecurity on the part
of the CEO: Usually its because they are autocratic and dont let talent
develop. But a more basic reason for holding on to the seat, Business Week
stated frankly: the love of power. As such, Business Week reiterated the
problem of wresting power concessions from the CEO: To give up a high-
pressure job commanding billions of dollars and thousands of people does not
come easily to anyone who has fought hard to get where he is. Also, such power
carried pleasure; as Rich stated, Running a big company is an enormous high.* 71
Hence, the radical ethic embodied an awareness of how power relations affect the
success of individuals and organizations, particularly as Business Week revealed
the attraction of power as an end in itself. Compared to the critique on succession
a decade earlier, discourse reflected a new level of sophistication about
expressions of power in corporate management, in that Business Week described
the psychological causes that underlie the manifestations of power.
Turnover at the Top, Business Week, 19 October 1983, p. 104-106; Burgen, Scenario, p. 84.
71 Chief Executives Who Wont Let Go, Business Week, 8 October 1984, p. 38; Mr. Outside,
p. 39.
64


Consequently, discourse emphasized the purpose of a radical ethicto transform
power structures in order to mitigate the potential for abuse of power.
Thus Business Week discourse revealed an evolving path in the
development of the radical ethic: from irreverent cynicism to countercultural
idealism to direct confrontation with power issues. Because the desire for
autonomy and self-expression often encountered resistance, the business
counterculture became radical. As such, Business Week displayed frankness about
power in the open description of details, particularly who is involved and at what
companies, as well as frankness about the emotional consequences of involuntary
termination. Such openness departed significantly from the 1956 study on
experiences of new company presidents, in which they described their position as
lonely. The anonymity of the survey shielded company presidents and their
companies; if isolation fostered conflicts within corporations, it did not arise in
Business Week discourse on the lead executive position. Indeed, the intent of
conformity was to prevent conflict and foster harmony.72 73 Also, whatever reasons
executives gave for job mobility in the past, during the 1970s such changes were
acknowledged as power issues, not simply promotion, opportunity, or pay
considerations.74 Furthermore, the code of company loyalty began to disintegrate
with radical expressions of individualism within the corporation. Thus, economic
uncertainty coupled with unencumbered self-expression brought a period of
disorder and instability, and the pretense of unity that seemed to control
corporations previously gave way to conflict and chaos. Consequently,Business
Week proved eager to bring order to chaos, to settle the radical shift, to give the
72 When a Top Executive is Fired, Business Week, 15 September 1980, p. 134-136; An Agent
of Change Calls It Quits at GTE, Business Week, 19 December 1983, p. 106-108; A Nuts and
Bolts Guy is Out at Borg-Wamer, Business Week 19 December 1983, p. 108,110; Whyte,
Organization Man, p. 155.
7j Lonely Pinnacle, p. 118.
74 Reins, p. 40; Wont Let Go, p. 38.
65


radical ethic coherence and solidity, and to channel radical energy productively
for corporate ends.
66


CHAPTERS
EMERGENCE OF THE CEO AS A CULTURAL ICON
During the economic and corporate disorder of the 1970s and early 1980s,
the corporate chief executive officerspecifically as CEObecame the focal
point for corporate success, firmly displacing the company president. Yet the
discourse that gave definitive coherence to the CEO iconography did not occur
until the economy had settled into a semblance of sustained prosperity. In fact,
between mid-1982 and mid-1983, during a slow economic recovery and steady
increase in stock market valuation, the tone of Business Week as a whole reflected
an edgy anticipation of prosperity and financial stability. So, when prosperity
returned, enthusiasm for corporate success led to renewed acclaim for the lead
corporate executive.75
For the 1985 cover story, The New Corporate Elite, Business Week
editors chose 50 corporate leaders to laud as successful heroes. Though not all of
these executives were CEOs or used the CEO title, Business Week defined these
heroes in terms of CEO iconography, that is, in radical opposition to the
Organization Man. To emphasize the point, Business Week began the article with
the declaration: The Organization Man is dead. The article then proceeded to
credit the new business elite with displacing the industrial barons of the 1950s,
1960s, and 1970s, when government regulation and uniformity constituted an
75 Business Week, 1982; Business Week 1983.
67


accepted set of rules, when domestic borders defined the players in the game.
Business concerns perceived as problems during the 1970s posed challenges
during the 1980s and offered opportunities in a new economy of high
technology and services. Business Week described the 1980s as an era of
innovation and entrepreneurs, when corporations operated in a four trillion dollar
economy. More competitive and radically different, the new circumstances
involved foreign trade, government deregulation, open markets, higher energy
costs, and baby-boomer demands for new kinds of consumer goods. Though
CEOs construed foreign competition as a life and death struggle, Business Week
viewed it positively, saying, ... the new elite is totally international. Its
marketplace is the world. Hence, Business Week clarified the CEO milieu as
radical in itself, as novel for having expanded beyond the norms of an earlier
_ 76
era.
Business Week classified five types of heroes and lauded them for dealing
with the problems that plagued businesses during the 1970s and, thereby, for
creating this new milieu of prosperity and success. The High-tech
Entrepreneurs brought to fruition the potential of new technology, as founders
of computer and software companies on the cutting edge of the economy.
Business Week described the Service Gurus as pioneers on the uncharted
frontiers of deregulation [in] telecommunications, transportation, the law, and
health. The Financial Engineers contributed to the profit motive and wealth
creation as creative moneymovers. The Corporate Rejuvenators, the saviors
of smokestack industries, revived mature industries by applying entrepreneurial
principles. The Asset Shufflers ... lone-wolf speculators obtained enough
stock ownership to influence company decisions that served to improve
operations and earnings. The threat of similar takeover pressured other corporate 76
76 The New Corporate Elite, Business Week, 4 May 1985, p. 62-71.
68


managers toward better performance. Hence, the business counterculture
emerged in assertions of individual freedom, novelty, creativity, and invention in
resolving business problems. In lauding these assertions, Business Week validated
the radical ethic as the means to success and provided models for others to
emulate. Indeed, Business Week defined these men as culture heroes for
changing the status quofor deposing the power of the bureaucratic hierarchy
that hindered success.
According to Business Week, these heroes of business displaced
bureaucratic power through the institution of new business processes and
management methods. The corporate elite created revolutionary economic
change in the rules of business as swashbucklers and successful rebels. With
a populism that defied political preference, left or right (Daniel Bell, professor
of sociology, Harvard University), the new elite embraced anti-Establishment
(Bell) attitudes and instituted egalitarian principles expressed in terms of
dispersed company ownership and equal opportunity for achievement through
individual merit. Such CEOs promoted risk-taking and tolerated failure as part of
the process of successful achievement, an idea first illuminated by Business Week
in 1967. Moreover, the corporate elite often held contempt for status and
hierarchyassociated with the Organization Manin favor of a meritocracy.
The discourse further differentiated the humanistic rhetoric of the new elite
from the bureaucracy stereotypical of the Organization Man milieu. While the
new CEO emphasized individuality and creativity coupled with teamwork, the
Organization Man belonged to a homogenous, number-crunching generation of
managers dedicated to tradition and conservatism (Irving O. Hockady,
executive vice president of Hallmark Cards, Inc.). Business Week illustrated the
differences in attitude with a quotation by Robert M. Noyce, cofounder of Intel:
First names and success-sharing are as essential to our productivity as executive
dining rooms and unions are antithetical. Business Week associated unions with
69


the bureaucracy and bigness of the previous era, when a common bureaucratic
culture accepted Big Government and Big Labor as equal partners and viewed the
world from a liberal Republican, Eastern Establishment perspective. Using the
rhetoric of dissent, Business Week defined the radical ethic as success through
supplanting the authoritarian methods of the Organization Man and then
instituting the egalitarian methods of the CEO. Consequently, problems of power
and authoritywhich generated resistance during the 1950s, countercultural
idealism during the 1960s, and direct confrontations during the 1970semerged
as having been successfully redressed during the 1980s. Although the changes
occurred through a subtle evolution of management practice which began with
1950s resistance to hierarchical authority, Business Week gave credit for
redressing those issues to the radical CEOthe new cultural icon for success in
business.
Business Week looked to Steve Jobs for clarification on the differences
between the bureaucratic hierarchy of the Organization Man and entrepreneurial
corporate culture of the radical CEO. Jobs differentiated between leaders with
vision, associated with charisma, and managers with policy, associated with
central control. Decentralized decision-making power was as integral to the new
elites conception of organizational structure as it had been for previous
generation of managers, but Jobs comment suggested a different kind of power in
each conception of management practice. Whereas policy denoted the
technocratic, rationalized control of subordinate actions through rules and
procedures, vision suggested guidance for autonomous action by individuals
whose capabilities merit trust in defining and achieving goals. Hence, Business
Week depicted the entrepreneurial leader as a radical who rejected hierarchical,
bureaucratic authority as an effective method of management practice. Moreover, 77
77 Ibid.; Growth, p. 108.
70


the radical ethic solidified into specific traits that informed the decentralization
ethos of the new CEO: leadership, personality, and intuition as well as
charisma. Charisma harkened back to the magnetism of the personality ethic of
the early twentieth century (described in the introduction). But whereas
magnetism implied the ability to attract individuals, charisma implied the ability
to attract and inspire a group of loyal and enthusiastic followers. In the context of
radical opposition to bureaucracy, charisma supplanted self-serving loyalty to the
organization with loyalty to the vision, to the goals and strategies determined by
the group and reiterated by the entrepreneurial leader. Therefore, personality
during the 1980s carried different connotations than the personality ethic. The
former involved a distinction of individuality in social relations, one that inspired
and motivated others, while the latter involved control or mastery over others. It
was during the 1950s that the personality ethic attained the acquiescent tone
which fostered conformity and loyalty to the corporation in exchange for financial
security, material reward, and status. Yet the resistance to the status quo, which
infused 1950s discourse in Business Week, suggested a less simplistic reality than
the CEO-Organization Man dichotomy depicted in 1985. The uneasy relation to
the status quo was a constant throughout the discourse on the lead corporate
executive, and it became the foundation of the radical ethic that generated the
dichotomy.
To the extent that an Organization Man stereotype reflected reality,
Business Week valorized ideas that responded to the stereotype. For instance,
valuation of intuition countered the rational, scientific control preferred by the
bureaucrat, as intuition accepts cognition of knowledge without complete reliance
on facts and rational thought. For Jobs, intuition denoted a form of personal
power associated with the creative aspects of decision-making, problem-solving,
and risk-taking. Moreover, intuition demands trust in social relations, an idea
reminiscent of Harvards educational principles which developed intuition (as
71


described in 1974 discourse). Thus, Business Week associated certain values with
the CEO in order to transform the status quo of bureaucratic hierarchy into a
power structure oriented to an ecological view of the loose web, with the CEO as
the self-defined individual at the center of diffuse power relations, as described by
Harlan Cleveland in 1974 in The Future Executive. Though these values evolved
over a period of time, in 1985 Business Week depicted them in radical opposition
to the Organization Man stereotype supposed to have encompassed management
during 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Nevertheless, the 1974 imperative for a new
kind of corporate leadership came to fruition a decade later. Consequently, a
specific set of valuescharisma, personality, leadership, and intuitionbrought
coherence to the CEO iconography and provided direction for self-development in
the pursuit of business success.
Business Week continued to differentiate the new CEO from the
Organization Man in its evocation of historical myth and memory to buttress the
cultural power of corporate leaders. Business Week associated the new corporate
elite with the builders and iconoclasts of the Industrial Revolution. Like their
predecessors in the eighteenth century, These capitalist outlanders are creating
new empires and fortunes. Business Week downplayed the unsavory aspects of
industrial wealth creation, that eighteenth century industrialists used predatory
monopolies and trusts to gain wealth. Instead, the article aligned the corporate
elite with cultural peers of an earlier era, by describing them as entrepreneur-
founders with huge personal wealth in the great tradition of the Gilded Age.
Thus Business Week attributed iconic qualities to the CEO associated with risk-
taking in the pursuit of wealth. Moreover, the discourse added a mythological
dimension to the story, like the mythological golden age, nearly universal
across cultures, whereby the people continually strive for its return. In contrast, 78
78 Elite, p. 64, 69-70; B-School, p. 56; Mr. Outside, p. 39.
72


the cautious Organization Man attained power by rising through the ranks, not
by creating empires. The comparison revealed one of the problems of the
Organization Man-CEO dichotomythe frequent comparison between new
entrepreneurial ventures, which began as businesses too small to have a hierarchy,
with the radical ethics foundation in overturning the power in the old, large
organizations. Both the CEO entrepreneur and the corporate CEO provided the
basis for lauding the CEO in opposition to the big business Organization Man.
Hence, the discourse revealed a hew dimension to the radical ethic, that of small
business entrepreneurship as it usurped the hegemony of large corporations.
Moreover, the new elite respected the economic value and potential of small
business; therefore, in choosing the list of 50 corporate leaders, Business Week
editors did not consider the size of a company to be as important as its merit and
influence. As such, the independent, risk-taking, self-made businessmen became
revolutionaries with whom managers of large corporations found agreement as
they sought small business solutions to big business problems. Hence, the radical
ethic valorized a paradigm in which entrepreneurial attitudes about management
practice, ideally at least, infused corporate cultures in any size organization.79
But in contrast to 1967 discourse, which engaged the myth of frontier
individualism and associated it to social progress, Business Week emphasized
personal wealth as a consequence of risk-taking, contradicting the radical ethics
imperative for corporate social responsibility. Indeed, adulation for CEO
philanthropy brought further attention to the superficial aspects of financial
success as a cultural pursuit. Business Week applauded the use of private riches
for civic influence and the translation of personal wealth into public power.
Hence, authentic altruism and concern for communities were exposed as less
important than the public use of wealth as a means to elite status. For instance,
79Elite, p. 74.
73


Business Week praised An Wangs noblesse oblige* in renovating a derelict
theater in the Combat Zone in Boston, an area degraded by prostitution and drug
trafficking. But the center was named the An Wang Center for the Performing
Arts. Hence, Wang used the personal wealth and public trust for self-
aggrandizement; as such, Business Week endorsed philanthropy for narrow self-
interest. In this sense the discourse reflected a narrow focus on economic
achievementor greed. Moreover, as discourse emphasized use of personal
wealth for public good, the imperative for executive leadership in corporate social
responsibility disappeared from the discourse. Hence, the radical ethic that
initially defined CEO iconography actually lost some of the moral idealism, as
described by Burgen in 1974.80
But Business Week described the development of new corporate leadership
as work in progress, with economic, political, and cultural repercussions.
Although Business Week depicted the changes as radical, they revealed a self-
serving form of elitism which Burgen had attributed to the Organization Man:
It took 50 years for the old landed gentry and commercial class in
the U.S. to be edged aside in the 19th century by a rising industrial
elite. Now the lines are being drawn for yet another battle. As the
U.S. economy moves from heavy industry to services and high
technology, as it loosens up and becomes more competitive and
more global, the new corporate elite will gain the political clout
that goes hand in hand with economic power.
Thus, Business Week's attributions of revolutionary power to the CEOin
successfully overturning the status quointended to equalize power relations
between old and rising new wealth. Yet the established elite provided capital
investment for the vanguard of promising companies and technologies comprising
this new wealth. So the depiction of a democratizing shift in economic equality
appeared as more of a cooperative enterprise between old and new wealth than a
80 Ibid, p. 64; Growth, p. 99; Burgen, Scenario, p. 84.
74


radical displacement. Nevertheless, Business Week depicted the CEO as the
radical member of an elite class that resembled the old industrial order but
distinguished itself from it. While the intent of radicalism is to unlock and
transform structures of power, Business Week exposed the paradox of radicalism,
whereby successful rebels become part of the elite who define structures of
power; those structures may require constant analysis and critique to maintain
their purity as products of radical action. Consequently, Business Week sought to
soften ambiguity about status by claiming the new elites concern for social good
is in the fine American tradition of expressing civic virtue and is a threat to no
one. But one has to question the integrity of populist, egalitarian ethos that
affirmed elitism as an acceptable societal pattern, particularly given the
81
advantages the children of the new elite would inherit.
A similar contradiction in Business Weeks portrayal of the new corporate
heroes emerged in the claim that CEOs were rebels who were breaking the
rules of business. In reality, the impetus of public policy toward free trade and
the deregulation of banking, telecommunications, airline, and other industries
comprised an attempt to align business practices with a purer form of capitalism,
with laissez faire principles. Conversely, the rules of business had been defined
by bureaucratic regulations of government. As such, discourse confined the scope
of the radical ethic to that of overturning internal corporate and political structures
in order to maintain the capitalist status quo by purifying capitalist practices. In
this sense, the sociological revolution advocated by Burgen in 1974that
involved corporate social responsibility in hiring and promoting of women and
minorities, environmental protection, and consumer safetylost its significance
in discourse. As such, the radical ethic in business remained largely a value of
white, middle-class males seeking to succeed in the world of the business
81 Elite, p. 71, 74.
75


professional, whether hired or entrepreneurial. Nevertheless, Business Week
answered the question raised by the 1974 special report as to whose values and
ideals would determine the future of the economic system: the new corporate
elite.82
The CEO as a Capitalist Hero
Although Business Week continued to espouse the radical ethic, it took the
form of populist themes; however; the veneration of the public personality of
CEOs distorted those themes. In the 1986 article Business Celebrities, Business
Week depicted CEOs as capitalist heroes for having led society through a period
of economic uncertainty during the 1970s and early 1980s. During this period of
insecurity, attitudes toward business changed: Business, viewed with contempt
by some in recent years, is now popular. Making money is an acceptable
ambition once again on college campuses. Business Week continued: During
the late 1970s, Americas mood changed. No more radical chic. Instead there
was a resurgence of raw capitalism and an emphasis on self-reliance. Making
money was in. Business was where the action was. The election of Ronald
Reagan to the presidency affirmed the shift. As a successful entrepreneur, Steve
Jobs, founder of Apple Computers, exemplified the change in public attitude.
Thus, Business Week alluded to an end of the threat to capitalist institutions posed
by the New Left and other social movements of the 1960s and early 1970s.
Conversely, competition between American capitalism and Soviet communism
remained a potent concept in society during the 1980s. Therefore, capitalism
82 Ibid.; Mr. Outside, p. 38-42.
76


required publicity, and populist CEOs and their companies provided cause for
hyperbole in the media.
Populism in Business Week occurred in the context of public popularity.
Not shy of the media or celebrity status, the corporate leaders considered mass
communications an additional form of power and personalized companies a
means to express business values and to attract pubic attention to those
companies. CEOs made personal appearances in company advertisements, on
television shows, and at civic events, to bring the CEO and the company into the
public spotlight. While corporate public relations originated in the early twentieth
century, the discourse evoked a tone of novelty in public status, which added
power to its praise of businessmen. Moreover, Business Week considered
business celebrity a positive trend. Potential problems, such as overconfidence in
a CEO and distraction from operational responsibilities, were outweighed by the
possibility that more creative people will be drawn to the business world, and in
so doing, attract support for capitalist values. Hence, use of the media to generate
popular acclaim for the CEO served the preservation of the capitalist system in
the United States.* 84
Creating widespread public appeal of the CEO iconography required the
positive affirmation of populist values. As such, Business Week depicted many
business celebrities as underdogs who appealed to the public because they won
through individualistic risk-taking. For instance, as an entrepreneur, Jobs
represented a return to the original values of the self-made man. Jobs noted that
people latched on to him as a symbol of Apple Computers: Other competitors
were fairly impersonal, organizational entities, whereas Apple was in many ways
like a person in formation, like somebody growing up. Hence, Jobs provided a
^Business Celebrities, Business Week, 23 June 1986, p. 100-104,107.
84Ibid.; See also, Outside Activity, p. 80-82.
77


model for risk-taking, self-development, and experiential learning in building a
new business amidst large, dominating corporate entities. Similarly, Business
Week lauded T. Boone Pickens as another kind of business folkhero. Through
hostile takeovers of weak companies, Pickens pressed CEOs to reconsider
performance standards so as to prompt strategic actions that positively affected
shareholders return on investment. As such, Pickens represented himself to the
public as a champion of the common man wrestling with the buttoned-up CEOs
of big business to reap rewards from long-suffering shareholdersas if property-
owners were an oppressed class. Business Week portrayed Lee A. Iacocca as the
quintessential business celebrity, not only for his promotion of the Chrysler
Corporation through appearances in television advertising, but for his dramatic
transformation of the company from a state of crisis to a state of success.
However, Business Week noted that Iacocca did not fit the ideal business hero
perfectly, as an interventionist, who sought government assistance in the form
of loans, in an era of lassez faire. Nevertheless, Business Week lauded Iacocca
for being the first businessman since 1938 to be on the Gallop polls list of the top
ten most admired men in 1984 and 1985. A best-selling autobiography and an
appearance on Miami Vice, a television police show imbued with hip
individualism toward serving the public good (as well as cutting-edge clothing
Of
styles and fancy sports cars), verified Iacoccas celebrity status.
The heroic leadership of certain businesspeople deemed them as worthy
as athletes or movie stars of celebrity status. Given the value of the CEO to
forward corporate ends and capitalist values, Business Week implied, who better
deserves to be venerated? So, while Business Week valorized populist values,
celebrity status superseded their influence. The overriding emphasis on this status
and specialness conveyed elitism. Moreover, though Business Week proclaimed
85 Business Celebrities, p. 100.
78


radical chic to be dead, discourse reflected the development of a capitalist
version of radical chic. For instance, flamboyance attained acceptance as CEOs
became more adept at media relations, and the personality-oriented media tended
to focus on CEO lifestyle more than on management ability. As such, money-
getting and its material rewards trumped the anti-materialistic ethos of sixties
counterculture and the New Left. Hence, with the positive validation of celebrity
status for businessmen, Business Week co-opted a sense of radical style in a
manner that would feed economic growth.86 87
As prosperity and the successful implementation of radical values fostered
hero worship and elitism, the idealism of a sociological revolution and the
moral responsibility of corporations and their CEOs faded into the background of
Business Week discourse. Business celebrity for capitalist hegemony surpassed
concern for equal economic opportunity, environmental protection, and the other
social concerns raised by politically active citizens during the 1960s and early
1970s. Conversely, with populist themes, Business Week intended to portray
business as the avenue for individual success, even for underdogs. But the
examples given were white men with extraordinary ability and unusual access to
the corporate system. Although women and people of color gained positions of
authority and status in the corporate world, few reached the upper echelons of the
87
corporation.
86 Ibid.
87 Roman, Monica, Robert Minns, and Fred Jesperson, Portrait of the Boss, Business Week, 25
November 1991, p. 180.
79


Generational Definition of the Radical Ethic
Articles immediately following the declaration of the CEO as a hero
reiterated the opposition between the CEO and the Organization Man, doing so in
a manner that emphasized a generational bias in the radical ethic. Specifically,
Business Week opposed the perceived values and experiences of baby-boomer
CEOs in radical relation to those of the World War II generation of company
presidents. First, Business Week published an annual list of 50 potential
candidates for the position of chief executive officer in Is There a Future CEO In
This Bunch? The fast-trackers were 35 years of age and older. Though the
article did not state it explicitly, these executives were bom in the middle of the
baby-boom, from 1951 to 1958.88 Similarly, in The Computer Age Dawns in the
Comer Office, Business Week alluded to baby-boomer participation in the
computer industry. Before personal computers and sophisticated software
programs simplified access to information, late night operators, called sneaker
brigades, prepared computerized data for executives, to be available the next
morning. Given the year Business Week published this article1988the youth
connoted by sneaker implied that computer programmers sprang from the latter
part of the baby boom. As new software eased the data transfer from mainframe
to desktop computers, these computer wizards would be at the forefront of
changes in work styles and organizational structures. Though the new
technology promised to improve white collar productivity, human resistance to
technological change would slow adaptation. Also, corporations would need to
tinker deep down inside their own bureaucracies to gamer productivity gains.
Because future executives would understand computer technology from an early
age, they would more easily manage the transformation to a flatter, less
88 Is There a Future CEO in This Bunch? Business Week, 10 November 1986, p. 97.
80


technocratic business organization. Thus, the radical ethic acquired generational
connotations related to the particular circumstances of technological development
as it revolutionized daily business life.89
Business Week expressed its disposition for baby-boomer leadership
directly in The Pepsi Generation Heads for the Comer Office. Given the
average age of a new CEO at 51 years old, a significant number of baby boomer
executives could expect to become CEOs around 2000. Business Week
considered what impact could be expected from a generation raised in
homogenous suburbs during the 1950s, who then questioned authority during
the 1960s and faced the sobering decline of industry and the rise of the national
debt during the 1970s and 1980s. In contrast to the baby-boomer CEO of the
fixture, existing CEOs in 1989, at an average 56 years of age, sprang from a
generation bom in the Great Depression of the 1930s (years of low birth rate) who
came of age during the economic boom of the 1950s. Business Week interviewed
Richard Easterlin, professor at the University of Southern California, who
compared the two generations. Present CEOs benefited from labor shortages: It
was a generation that reached the top fairly easily. Conversely, the baby
boomers will have fought each other every step of the way, from overflowing
elementary school classrooms to a relatively tough labor market in the 1970s.
Though the baby-boomers did not experience depression, they grew-up with
anxiety, in the shadow of the Holocaust, the Bomb, and the cold warand the
scars of its heritage instilled greater worry about fixture security than in the
previous generation. Thixs, Business Week linked popxxlist values to the radical
89 Gelfond, Susan M., The Computer Age Dawns in the Comer Office, Business Week, 27 June
1988, p. 84.
81


ethic in its depiction of baby-boomers as underdogs unseating existing power-
holders. 90
That not all baby-boomers had participated in radical politics did not
detract from Business Weeks assertion of a common generational experience.
Some had attended business school when it was decidedly unfashionable.
MBA graduates of the early 1970s tended to choose the classic corporate career
and worked their way up the ranks at a major corporation. But diversity in the
classroom and concern for social issues infused business education. Moreover,
the new generation of prospective CEOs differed from their predecessors in
holding less loyalty to companies and in being more appreciative of family life
and leisure time, more concerned about the environment, and more tolerant of
social differences. Hence, Business Week predicted that the values of social
responsibility, as defined at the genesis of CEO iconography in 1974, would be
institutionalized by the Pepsi Generation. Also, Business Week alluded that
baby-boomers possessed the capacity to further implement and sustain these
values. According to Drexel University sociologist Arthur B. Shostak, They will
be more self-confident, more thick-skinned, and more outspoken than previous
executives. Also, Columbia Business School professor Donald C. Hambnick
predicted that future CEOs would be more oriented to leadership, more
charismatic in order to guide larger, more complex, humanly diverse, and
geographically dispersed organizations, than their predecessors. Thus, the
defining traits of the radical ethic solidified in specific historical circumstances,
made unique by the new CEO who would fulfill the perception of a radical
destiny in the baby-boomer generation. Through personality, charisma, and
leadership, the baby-boomer CEO would supplant the status quo in fact and
90 Carey, John and Emily T. Smith, The Pepsi Generation Heads for the Comer Office, 25
September 1989, p. 170.
82


attitude and direct the implementation of enlightened social values into the
mainstream of the corporate world.91
Toward this institutionalization of the radical success ethic, that is, until
the baby-boomer CEO attained the lead executive position, Business Weeks
expression of radicalism took the form of exposing abuses of power.
Significantly, the discourse reiterated Organization Man-style problems. In the
1991 cover story and title article, CEO Disease, Business Week criticized CEOs
who used the status of their position for self-aggrandizement. While many CEOs
avoided or grappled with the hazards of power, egotism deluded others:
The CEOs judgment and presence are eagerly sought by other
captains of industry and policymakers. CEOs zip around the
world in private jets and cash the heftiest paychecks in industry...
The perquisites and deference create a protective cocoonif not
a full-fledged fantasy world.
Moreover, a sense of self-importance affected the CEOs ability to make firm
decisions and to accept his mistakes and imperfections. While not explicitly
stated in the article, CEO egotism cultivated an Organization Man kind of
conformist corporate culture: He begins to surround himself with sycophants in
senior management and on the board. Thus, Business Week implied, such CEOs
projected an image of authoritative superiority that hid an undercurrent of
insecurity. This insecurity revealed itself in comparisons to other CEOs in terms
of pay, style of headquarters, and means of travel. These CEOs acted as
statesman in civic and public affairs and sought media attention for personal
gain rather than official business. Celebrity status contributed to the Imperial
CEO and distracted from company prerogatives. Thus, with the communist
threat ended (with the fall of the Berlin Wall in October 1989) and the country in
the midst of recession, public celebrity became secondary to the imperatives of
9Pepsi Generation, p. 170; Burgen, Scenario, p. 83-84.
83


egalitarianism and effective management. While the hyperbole about the
successful radical elite during the 1980s contributed to CEO arrogance, Business
Week revealed a radical ethic empowered to confront that arrogance. Despite
Business Week hyperbole to the contrary, the Organization Man was not dead
after all! Indeed, creating and maintaining corporate egalitarianism required
09
diligent attention to expressions of power.
Business Week offered a populist remedy for CEO self-aggrandizement
to behave like a regular person. In The Best Bosses Avoid the Pitfalls of
Power, Business Week provided a populist image of the radical business ieader
by lauding Kenneth Iverson of Nucor Corporation as the iconic symbol. Iverson
sought to destroy corporate hierarchy, and Nucor refused status symbols: no
executive dining room, fancy headquarters, or first class travel. Aware of
dangers lurking in the comer office and isolation, CEOs like Iverson hired
people willing to speak candidly; they behaved in an open and communicative
manner that traversed the organization structure; and they cultivated teamwork at
the top, such as in the office of the chairman, a version of the multiple chief
executive function, which Business Week advocated in 1970 and 1974. Donald
Perkins, former CEO of Jewels Co., provided another example of the radical
business ieaders. Perkins disliked what he called the silent pause that follows
CEOs around an organization, a comment that revealed the persistence of
isolation in the top corporate position. Perkins turned hierarchy upside down by
literally turning the organization chart upside down, placing the customer at the
top and telling employees, Your job is to find ways to be helpful to those above
you on the chart. Other strategies for avoiding the pitfalls of power included
assembling a board of directors comprised mostly of outsiders who would provide
unfiltered advice. The populist CEO stayed close to the business, minimizing 92
92Byme, John A. CEO Disease, Business Week, 1 April 1991, p. 52.
84


board directorships and other outside activities that added to personal prestige.
Once again, Business Week denounced the chief executive who, reluctant to
relinquish power, undermined candidates for succession. Conversely, the secure
CEO would recruit and promote strong managers rather than surround [himself]
with spineless mediocrities. Hence, in contrast to the leveling of status in the
subtext of discourse during the 1950s, in 1991 Business Week evoked a populism
energized by direct acknowledgement of problems in management and
psychological awareness of executive behavior. But these attempts to level CEO
hubris revealed a kind of conformity, one that sought to control extreme
inequalities in power, wealth, and status within the ideal of a democratic society.93
Conformity manifested in business culture as Business Week (as well as
shareholders) sought allies for CEO oversight in board directors. An editorial,
Rx for CEO Disease: An Alert Board, suggested several methods that board
directors could use to dispel CEO egotism. These included oversight through in-
depth performance reviews, which included viewpoints of senior executives, close
scrutiny of perquisites and expenses for excess, and a safeguard against excessive
attention to activities outside the company. The board must monitor the CEO to
keep the CEO focused on the priorities of the company: No one elsecertainly
not a subordinateis likely to challenge the CEO. The comment revealed the
limits of free self-expression in the workplace, in that other high level executives
could not or would not confront the CEO about his activities. Hence, the
discourse exposed conformity as a continuing problem in large corporations.94
Moreover, as the economic recession of the early 1990s intensified shareholder
activism, Business Week published several articles advocating more stringent
93 Byrne, John A. and William C. Symonds, The Best Bosses Avoid the Pitfalls of Power,
Business 1Week, 1 April 1991, p. 59; Their Jobs, p. 112.
94 The Rx for CEO Disease: An Alert Board, Business Week, 1 April 1991, p. 92.
85


corporate governance.95 Of course, oversight pressures on the CEO often created
an Organization Man-type CEO, who capitulated to the board and Wall Street
rather than pursue independent ideas. As Business Week commented in
Summertimeand the CEOs are Sweating: The combustible combination of
independent boards, active shareholders and fast-changing markets seems likely
to keep exploding the status quo. In this case, the status quo referred to
individual CEOs who did not meet performance expectations, rather than the
status quo of the 1950s, the bureaucratic hierarchy that motivated the radical
ethic.
Though the iconography had defined the CEO as radical leader, during the
economic shifts of the early 1990s, some CEOs qualified and others became
targets of radical action. Shareholder activism aimed at termination of CEOs so
that the board of directors could bring new leadership to a company, particularly
an outsider without the traditional attachments to the companys existing
operations and culture. In CEO Wanted. No Insiders, Please, Business Week
explained the need for hiring an outsider CEO in terms of nonconformity and
originality, to bring a fresh perspective and fresh ideas, as well as radical
change to an ossified corporate culture. In economically difficult times, an
unsentimental outsider found it easier to initiate dramatic changes, including
lay-offs, plant closures, product changes, reductions in funding for research and
development, and reduced dividend payments to shareholders. In one example,
the paternalistic culture at Campbell Soup Company hindered the CEO, a 33-
year company man, from initiating changes that would improve the companys .
95 Dubrzynski, Judith H. Chairman and CEO: One Hat Too Many Business Week, 18
November 1991, p. 124; How to Succeed When Your Company Doesnt. Business Week 15
February 1993, p.34; SummertimeAnd CEOs Are Sweating, Business Week, 26 July 1993, p.
28; Byme, John A. Why More Heads Will Roll, Business Week 23 August 1993, p. 24;
Dobrzynski, Judith H. How to Handle A CEO. Business Week 21 February 1994, p. 64.
86


financial performance; however, a new CEO, hired from outside the company,
quickly either closed or sold 20 plants, laid-off twenty-one percent of employees,
and discontinued unprofitable products, activating rapid growth in profits. Thus,
the radical ethos adjusted to economic troubles, to that of the outsider capable
of making radical change.96 But in contrast to the early 1970s, when the outsider
no longer connoted the countering of tradition of success by rising through the
corporate hierarchy,97 the outsider represented radical change in service to
shareholders. But the radical values of the shareholder activists and outsider
CEOs were based on some countercultural values, such as openness to change,
and not on others, such as individual well-being. For instance, the rationalism of
layoffs and permanent loss of jobs to overseas manufacturingwhich defined the
greater good for the purpose of wealth creation in a competitive global market
required emotional distance from human misfortune. Thus, narrow concern for
shareholder return on investment indicated less of a desire for revolutionary social
change and more of an Organization Man-style capitulation to shareholders.
While the final article of this study reflected hopeful anticipation of baby-
boomers to reach the chief executive office and to displace existing CEOs, it
conveyed a generational opposition devoid of social idealism. John A. Byrne,
Business Week management specialist, delineated generational differences among
CEOs in Requiem for Yesterdays CEO. Byrne portrayed a crisis in business
leadership due to intensification of shareholder activities, foreign competition,
demanding customers, the brutal times, and high CEO turnover engendered by
such difficulties. The situation required a younger generation; the old-style
managers were not capable of mastering it. In making this claim, Byrne opposed
96 CEO Wanted. No Insiders, Please. Business Week, 12 August 1991, p. 44; see also, Greising,
Summertime, p. 28; Byrne, Heads, p. 24.
97 New Bosses, p. 82-83
87


the Organization Man against the baby-boomer CEO. The hierarchy and chain of
command style of management, stereotypical of the Organization Man, created
managers more responsible to each other than to customers. The erosion of
U.S. domination in the world market demanded rapid change not devotion to
some internal order. Baby-boomer CEOs would be better able to manage the
necessary changes, as they would be more at ease than their predecessors with a
flatter power structure where alacrity and agility are prized over rigid, almost
military, obedience. Thus the generational shift would be positive: Managers
of the World War II generation, a group one might call the most successful and
powerful ever, is at last passing on from the nations executive suites. Just as
Bill Clinton swept George Bush from political office,,so a new generation of
Q*
CEOs would lead the change in business.
Moreover, this break from the past needed to be radical to ensure future
success. As Noel M. Tichy, professor of management at the University of
Michigan, stated, Todays chief executive cant have an emotional commitment
to the past. They cant be afraid to shake things up. Older managers attachment
to the past made them slow to respond to economic crises and new opportunities,
and boards of directors from the same generation carried the same clouded
judgments. Furthermore, the article implied hopeful anticipation that baby-
boomer CEOs would benefit from economic changes and be propelled to the top
position quickly, particularly as Business Week predicted that board directors
would begin to hire younger CEOs from outside the companies. Hence, Byme
imparted a desire for power without any broad sense of moral purpose and social
idealism said to differentiate the CEO from the Organization Man. Moreover,
while criticizing the previous generation as being in devotion to some internal
order, Business Week portrayed baby-boomers, stereotypically, as devoted to self 98
98 Byme, John A., Requiem For yesterdays CEO, Business Week, 15 February 1993, p. 32.
88


through corporate promotion. Even Tichy countered the generational bias,
saying, Its not just age, its mindset. Given his generational bias, Byrne
reduced the CEO-Organization Man dichotomyand, therefore, the radical ethic
itselfto an unresolved generational rivalry."
Discerning Generational Differences
Byrnes bias for the baby-boom generation exposed the Organization
Man-CEO dichotomy as overly simplistic, based on two stereotypes that did not
necessarily reflect reality. For example, postwar executives initiated management
ideas considered radical in 1970. Caterpillar Tractor Company was the first
American company to institute the multiple chief executive function as a
management structureand it did so during the 1950s.99 100 Conversely, the
management structure retained its relevance as a radical tool into the 1990s.101
Also, Nucors Kenneth Iverson, the populist CEO icon, was not a baby-boomer,
and neither were other members of the The Business Week 50 who comprised
the new corporate elite. And even Whyte discerned a multiplicity of attitudes
among executives of the postwar corporation, not an all-encompassing
Organization Man.102
Despite Whytes picture of mediocre contentment in the organization
man, the young executive of the 1950s saw himself as a revolutionary hero.
99 Ibid.; See readers responses in Is The Organization Man Holding Business Back? Business
Week, 15 March 1993, p. 7; Pepsi Generation, p. 170; Burgen, Scenario, p. 84-85:
100 Second Thoughts, p. 42.
10IByme, Pitfalls, p. 59; The Business Week 50, Business Week, 4 May 1985, p. 62.
102 Whyte, The Organization Man, p. 44-45, 54,63, 123-136,155-156
89


According to Whyte, the young executive and executive trainee viewed human
relations as a revolutionary tool the organization man is to use against the
bosses. As a new breed of executive, he would educate the older, less
progressive generation of executives about new management ideas. He
emphasized cooperation over competition, viewed overt ambition as bad form,
and held communication techniques and psychological principles as a
preferable means to motivate people to act than to drive subordinates by edict.
Such an application of human relations comprised a crusade against
authoritarianism, which brought more freedom and recognition to individuals in
the middle layers of management. Hence, the young executive held a clear set of
populist values and radical attitudes about power in corporate hierarchy.
Moreover, he viewed social harmony as a moral issue, superior to assertions of
ego in face-to-face interactions. Because Whtyes organization men espoused
leaderless groups as the means to workplace democracy, they may have been
too radical in the context of a 1950s social consensus intended to prevent
communist subversion from within the United States.103
This cultural backdrop during the Cold War explains the persistent
valuation of a single leader, as well as for charismatic leadership in general, as a
means to maintain social order through a focus on American free enterprise
capitalism. Drucker expressed this idea in 1970, saying that the shape of the
presidents office would be tailored to what the chief executive in power wants
it to be. The demand for CEO leadership in 1974, the affirmation of CEO
hegemony through golden parachutes in 1983, and the eager idolization of the
new elite in 1985 and 1986 further expressed a desire for a central power
position to provide a model for future success within the capitalist free enterprise
system. Thus, amidst otherwise liberal valuesof freedom, individuality, and
103 Ibid.
90


self-expressionthe radical ethic comprised an element of conservatism in the
centralized cultural power of CEO iconography.104
This combination of liberal and conservative values in the radical ethic
revealed not a CEO-Organization Man opposition but a continuing concern
(which began even before the 1950s) for a balance between power and authority
directed toward organizational goals, on the one hand, and freedom, individuality,
and self-expression, on the other hand. Hence, Business Week revealed the
development of CEO iconography as a process of subtle radical movements,
differentiated more by social, economic, and political circumstances than by
distinctions of generational attitude. This process began with irreverent resistance
to the Organization Man mentality by the postwar executives themselves. Indeed,
the popularity of The Organization Man influenced management ideas,
manifesting in a masculine, frontier individualism that countered the pleasing,
feminine personality associated with conformity. When economic equality for
women and minorities emerged as a corporate issue and young executives began
to press for workplace autonomy, intuitionas a positive feminine principle
emerged to counter overarching individualism and to foster open social relations
without conformity in a diffuse power structure. As social, political, economic,
and cultural relations pressed for the attention of the lead executive, Business
Week leveraged the situation to insist on a new type of corporate leadership.
Economic conditions triggered chaotic executive turnover and conflict among
executives, a situation that required a centralizing force for order. Hence, CEO
iconography emerged with the successful return to prosperity during the mid-
1980s and connoted the triumph of radical leadership within the world of business
in opposition to the Organization Man stereotype, as well as within the culture at
large in opposition to communism and socialism. The CEO-Organization Man
104Goffinan, Counterculture, p. 342-350; New Breed, p. 144; New Planning, p. 63-67.
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dichotomy solidified further in anticipation of baby-boomers attaining the CEO
position.
Byrnes empathy for baby-boomer generation of business executives, that
it endured greater hardships and anxiety than the postwar generation, contributes
to the misleading nature of the Organization Man-CEO dichotomy. Baby-boomer
hardship is offset by the advantage of easier adaptation to technology. While
existing (postwar generation) CEOs also experienced the anxieties of the postwar
era, the new crop of CEOs would enjoy the benefits of coming to power in
confluence with unprecedented opportunities created by new electronic
technology. By ignoring this contradiction, Business Week ascribed generational
significance to the radical success ethic in a manner that reflected a bias for baby-
boomers ability to be radical. Yet examination of the discourse on the lead
corporate executive in its entirety, from 1950 to 1993, revealed the postwar
generation to be the early progenitors of the radical ethic, through its resistance to
the status quo. Hence, Byrne rationalized generational distinctions where
similarities existed.
Notably, a resurgence of irreverent resistance occurred concurrently with
the expectation of baby-boomers becoming CEOs. This revival of irreverent
humor in Business Week during the early 1990s imparted a sense that
authoritarian power still ruled the corporation and hindered autonomy and free
self-expression. For instance, irreverence connoted lack of merit in and disregard
for CEO status as a unique position in the corporate structure. Business Week
expressed irreverence in reference to CEO arrogance as a disease and in
reference to the dissipation of the World War II generation of managers as cause
for a requiem. Frequent references to the comer office, such as comer office
commotion and unprecedented comer office turnover, used a concrete image,
based on actual allocation of office space, to express this lack of regard for the
separate, special place of the CEO. The CEO may have attained better social
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