The Executive's Compass: Business and the Good Society

Overview

American society has become increasingly polarized by single- and special-interest groups: the Greens, who demand environmental purity; admirers of Japan who want a national industrial policy; supply-side economists who want government to all but disappear. This collision of values has turned America into a battleground of either/or tradeoffs: the community vs. the individual, the environment vs. jobs, the rights of each ethnic group vs. the needs of the nation for unity. Whose values should prevail? Those of ...
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The Executive's Compass: Business and the Good Society

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Overview

American society has become increasingly polarized by single- and special-interest groups: the Greens, who demand environmental purity; admirers of Japan who want a national industrial policy; supply-side economists who want government to all but disappear. This collision of values has turned America into a battleground of either/or tradeoffs: the community vs. the individual, the environment vs. jobs, the rights of each ethnic group vs. the needs of the nation for unity. Whose values should prevail? Those of Libertarians? Communitarians? Egalitarians? Corporatists? The nation's leadership role in the post-communist world will be largely determined by how such conflicts are resolved. Increasingly, business executives find themselves drawn into these values wars, forced to make decisions in a hothouse climate in which there are countless and conflicting opinions about what is right and wrong. In The Executive's Compass, James O'Toole guides business leaders through the minefield of moral dilemmas confronting them as they attempt to formulate corporate policy on such issues as plant closings, executive compensation, corporate governance, and affirmative action. In the words of ARCO's CEO, Lod Cook, "O'Toole provides business leaders with a practical compass to help them navigate the turbulent waters of social change and political conflict." O'Toole explores the philosophical and historical underpinnings of contemporary business problems, tracing their origins to the ideas of such great thinkers as Aristotle, Adam Smith, J.S. Mill, and Jefferson. By going to the roots of modern issues, he is able to clarify the sources of political disagreement, and to suggest a practical course of action for corporate leaders who find themselves caught in the gridlock of democracy. He provides an innovative values compass - a tool he has honed for over twenty years as a moderator of the Aspen Institute Executive Seminar - which has been successfully applied at FORTUNE 500 firms a

A business leader's guide to resolving today's moral dilemmas. By going to the roots of modern business issues, O'Toole clarifies sources of political disagreements and suggests a practical course of action for corporate leaders who find themselves caught in the gridlock of democracy. 12 line drawings.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Jim O'Toole's The Executive's Compass helped me clarify a number of the value issues involved in managerial decision-making. It makes an impressive case for the democratic process as the best way to deal with competing values and effectively shows that many of today's managerial challenges have deep historical roots in the great books."--Ed Lawler, Director, Center for Effective Organizations, University of Southern California, writing in Across the Board

"At a time when American society has become increasingly polarized by a 'collision of values,' business leaders often find themselves stymied when trying to formulate corporate policies. O'Toole, executive director of the Leadership Institute and Chair of Management at the University of Southern California's Graduate School of Business, provides business leaders a 'values compass' for navigating these rocky channels. Developed during the author's forty years as moderator of the Aspen Institute Executive Seminar, the book wends its way from Jefferson, Hobbes, and Locke to the philosophies of contemporary environmentalists, corporatists, and communitarians in an effort to understand the ideas of liberty, equality, efficiency, and community. That O'Toole is able to cover such a vast amount of territory in such a slim, enjoyable volume is testament to his considerable talents--and the power of the ideas he clearly cherishes."--Business Ethics

"The 'executive's compass' is a tool O'Toole developed over his years at Aspen to provide a grounding for value-based decision making. Divided into four quadrants (liberty, equality, efficiency, and community), it maps the conflicting pull of values all decision makers must face."-- Booklist

"When I participated in Jim O'Toole's Aspen Institute seminar, I was exceptionally impressed with the seminar's breadth, originality of thought and practicality of application to real-life situations. In fact, I found that the seminar had only one deficiency--that it couldn't be made available to everyone. Now, with this book, it can. As a manager of a corporate culture, I find that I am constantly reconciling directly conflicting (and completely legitimate) points of view. Jim's analysis is both intellectually provocative and pragmatically instructive for a corporate manager."--Michael D. Eisner, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company

"One of the stale truths of this complex age is that leaders must 'do the right thing." But doing the 'right thing' involves confusing questions of morality, values, needs of constituencies and a variety of other issues having to do with what a good society is all about. Jim O'Toole's book is the first relevant primer on these issues. It may well be the most useful and important management book of this complex decade."--Warren Bennis, author of An Invented Life: Reflections on Leadership and Change and Beyond Bureaucracy

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These ideas from the Aspen Institute Executive Seminar guide business leaders through the minefield of moral dilemmas associated with plant closings, executive compensation, corporate governance, & affirmative action.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195096446
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/28/1995
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 961,321
  • Product dimensions: 8.13 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author: James O'Toole is Executive Director of the Leadership Institute. He holds the University Associates' Chair of Management at the USC Graduate School of Business. He has recently been Editor of New Management magazine and is author of ten books, including Vanguard Management, named by Business Week as one of the best business and economics books of 1985.

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Table of Contents

Foreword
1 Introduction: "Whose Values?" 1
2 Why We Disagree 15
3 Four Poles of the Good Society 31
Liberty 33
Equality 45
Efficiency 62
Community 79
4 Democracy: Wellspring of the Good Society 99
Appendix A Corporate Applications 127
Appendix B Debating Public Policy 141
Bibliography 151
Acknowledgments 156
Name Index 158
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