Corporate Mobility and Paths to the Top: Studies for Human Resource and Management Development Specialists

By J. Benjamin Forbes; James E. Piercy | Go to book overview

6
The Origins and Formative Years of the Chief Executive Officer

In 1989, America's 800 highest paid business CEOs ran companies that employed 20 million workers and generated $3.2 trillion in revenues ( "The power and the pay," 1989). What is known about these business leaders? How did they rise to such prestigious and powerful positions? Are people from particular backgrounds more likely to become top executives? Do today's CEOs differ in origins and background from their predecessors of previous generations?

Since the beginning of the large-scale business enterprise there has been interest in the backgrounds of the executives who direct and shape these organizations. Early researchers asked: Are there common threads in their origins and formative years that might prove to be indicators of future success? In this chapter we will ask and answer that question as well as the additional question: What long-term trends may have changed over time and what new trends, if any, may have arisen in recent years?


EARLIER STUDIES OF THE BACKGROUNDS OF CEOs

Gregory and Nau ( 1962) examined the social origins of 300 business leaders in the textile, steel, and railroad industries in the 1870-1879 decade. Miller ( 1962) analyzed similar data for 190 chairmen and presidents of leading industrial firms, public utilities, and financial institutions for the 1901-1910 time period. In her comprehensive study of 428 leading business executives, Newcomer ( 1955) chose three time periods: 1900, 1925, and 1950. Warner and Abegglen ( 1955) examined the backgrounds of more than 8,500 business leaders through questionnaires and personal interviews. We conducted a detailed study of the background of the 791 top CEOs in 1978 ( Piercy & Forbes, 1981) and have

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Corporate Mobility and Paths to the Top: Studies for Human Resource and Management Development Specialists
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xiii
  • Preface xv
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Early Years 7
  • Conclusions 20
  • 3 - The Early Competition: Tournament or Horse Race? 23
  • 4 47
  • 5 - Paths to the Top for Women 67
  • 6 - The Origins and Formative Years of the Chief Executive Officer 93
  • 7 - Industry Differences and Changes Over Time in the Career Paths of Chief Executives 119
  • 8 - Bottom to Top: The Career of the Chief Executive Officer 141
  • 9 - The Route to the Top: Climbing on the Decisions of Others 171
  • References 195
  • Index 203
  • About the Authors 209
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