The Bloated Egos Of CEOs

Perhaps you've been pleased by the ongoing revelations of scams, scandals, and outright scuzziness in the executive suites of major corporations, thinking that surely this embarrassing picture of systemic CEO greed will chasten corporate executives, perhaps even humble them a bit, and bring them back down to earth from their platinum towers.

Sure, Pollyanna, just as soon as pure ego ceases to be the drug of choice among those breathing the rarified air at the top of CorporateWorld. These are people born without the humility gene, people who stay high on their own essence, people who sniff their armpits and smell roses; don't expect introspection, much less a change in the corporate ethic, from those at the top.

Indeed, feeling beleaguered by today's public outrage at CEO privilege, more and more top executives are getting their backs up, huffily declaring that they deserve their extravagant lifestyles and, in fact, should be praised by the public for their superior worth to society.

USA Today reports a surge of CEOs rushing out to re-read and form support groups around the writings of Ayn Rand, the Russian immigrant and Hollywood scriptwriter whose 1950s novels exalted wealthy corporate leaders as capitalist utopians heroically battling workers, public officials, consumers, and other lesser beings, who were portrayed as mooching on their genius. Rand's books affirm the CEOs' belief that their avaricious pursuit of self-interest is a moral act. Apparently, Rand's fiction is boosting the sagging self-esteem of today's CEOs, reassuring them that, as USA Today puts it, they are the "real-life achievers who do far more to lift the world's standard of living, cure disease, and end starvation than Mother Teresa."

It's hard for me to think of Jack Welch, Kenneth Lay, Dennis Kozlowski, or any CEO -- including Martha Stewart -- as Mother Teresa. Instead of re-reading Ayn Rand, these guys need to review the Golden Rule.


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