The Enlightened Capitalists: Cautionary Tales of Business Pioneers Who Tried to Do Well by Doing Good

The Enlightened Capitalists: Cautionary Tales of Business Pioneers Who Tried to Do Well by Doing Good

by James O'Toole


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An expert on ethical leadership analyzes the complicated history of business people who tried to marry the pursuit of profits with virtuous organizational practices—from British industrialist Robert Owen to American retailer John Cash Penney and jeans maker Levi Strauss to such modern-day entrepreneurs Anita Roddick and Tom Chappell.

Today’s business leaders are increasingly pressured by citizens, consumers, and government officials to address urgent social and environmental issues. Although some corporate executives remain deaf to such calls, over the last two centuries, a handful of business leaders in America and Britain have attempted to create business organizations that were both profitable and socially responsible.

In The Enlightened Capitalists, James O’Toole tells the largely forgotten stories of men and women who adopted forward-thinking business practices designed to serve the needs of their employees, customers, communities, and the natural environment. They wanted to prove that executives didn’t have to make trade-offs between profit and virtue.

Combining a wealth of research and vivid storytelling, O’Toole brings life to historical figures like William Lever, the inventor of bar soap who created the most profitable company in Britain and used his money to greatly improve the lives of his workers and their families. Eventually, he lost control of the company to creditors who promptly terminated the enlightened practices he had initiated—the fate of many idealistic capitalists.

As a new generation attempts to address social problems through enlightened organizational leadership, O’Toole explores a major question being posed today in Britain and America: Are virtuous corporate practices compatible with shareholder capitalism?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062880246
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/26/2019
Pages: 592
Sales rank: 1,214,753
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 2.00(d)

About the Author

James O’Toole is the author of seventeen books, including Work in America and Vanguard Management. Professor Emeritus at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, and Founding Director of the Neely Center for Ethical Leadership. While at USC, he held the University Associates’ Chair of Management, served as Executive Director of the Leadership Institute, and editor of New Management magazine.

Table of Contents

Preface: The Good Unearthed xi

Introduction and Background: Why It Is Hard to Do Good xix

Part I The Pioneers

1 The First Business Reformer: Robert Owen (1771-1858) 3

2 Man with a Thousand Partners: James Cash Penney (1875-1971) 31

3 The Businessman Who "Cleaned Up the World": William Lever (1851-1925) 51

4 Kisses Sweeter Than Wine: Milton Snavely Hershey (1857-1945) 71

5 Creating an Enduring Enterprise: James Lincoln (1883-1965) 94

6 New Forms of Incorporation and Governance: John Spedan Lewis (1885-1963) and John Joseph Eagan (1870-1924) 120

7 Johnson & Johnson's Roller-Coaster Ride: Robert Wood Johnson (1893-1968) and James Burke (1925-2012) 145

8 Great Genes: Levi Strauss (1829-1902) and His Heirs 176

9 Marks & Sparks: Michael Marks (1863-1900) and the Marks and Sieff Families 206

Part II The Golden Era

10 Leadership as an Art: Max De Pree (1924-2017) 227

11 Too Much of a Good Thing: William C. Norris (1911-2006) 243

12 Business Mavericks: Ken Iverson (1925-2002), Robert Townsend (1920-1998), Herb Kelleher (1931-), Bill Gore (1912-1986), and Terri Kelly (1963-) 264

13 The Patricians: Thornton Bradshaw (1917-1988), J. Irwin Miller (1909-2004), Edwin Land (1909-1991), John Whitehead (1922-2015), and Roy Vagelos (1929-) 304

14 Environmentalists or Capitalists? Anita Perella Roddick (1942-2007) and Tom Chappell (1943-) 342

15 Lever Redux: Ben Cohen (1951-) 376

16 Capitalists of a Different Stripe: Yvon Chouinard (1938-), Jack Stack (1949-), Robert Beyster (1924-2014), and Others 395

Part III Yesterday, Today, And Tomorrow

17 Looking Back: What We Have Learned 423

18 Looking Forward: The Prospects for Enlightened Corporate Leadership 442

Conclusion: Difficile Est Bonum Esse 473

Acknowledgments 479

Notes 483

Index 511

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