Our Aug. 11 Cover Story on executive succession, "Wanted: A few good CEOs," triggered a strong response from our readers. The cover image, with men's shoes, prompted most of the letters and E-mail. While some readers saw the image as an accurate symbol of male dominance of executive suites, other readers took us to task for sending a message that only men should be CEOs. One person even sent us a pair of women's shoes to buttress her point. Here's a sampling of the opinions:
In today's business world, companies are reaping what they have sown. More times than not, individuals who set out on the CEO track are solely motivated by power and money. With no mechanisms in place to recognize leadership, innovation, and ingenuity, the "good old boys" system has backed itself into a corner. Why is it that, with the number of corporations in America, there are only a handful of CEOs considered worth pursuing? Corporate America needs to reevaluate its hiring criteria and practices--not to mention its philosophy toward its workforce.
Your article began with a graphic which, though hazy, appeared to include women and people of color. The remainder of the article, identifying current CEOs and top candidates to succeed them, showed a group of "cookie-cutter" white men, that same dismal composition of CEO groups we have always encountered.
The graphic and the accompanying article embody the two extremes of organizational culture. One illustrates diversity, to which we pay lip service in the U.S. The other represents the homogeneity we disparage in Japan. Until we are able to push diversity up to the top management level, a potential competitive advantage will not be realized.
University of Texas at El Paso
I take exception to the statement of McKinsey & Co.'s Robert Felton. He was quoted as saying that it may no longer make sense to develop and train executives since they "may walk out of the door anyway."
As a firm of management psychologists with 50 years of experience in the area of succession planning, we at RHR International have observed that the hallmark of a well-managed company is to build bench strength from within.
Thomas J. Saporito
RHR International Co.
Wood Dale, Ill.
Tsk, tsk, BUSINESS WEEK! I rarely am offended by lapses in "political correctness," as I think everyone has gone a bit overboard with it. But I found myself completely appalled by your cover. Did it ever occur to you that a pair of pumps would have been equally as appropriate as a pair of wingtips?
Stephanie J. Oppenheimer
While it is true that there are more male than female CEOs, it is an unfortunate truth. In choosing this image, you did a disservice to female executives everywhere. I expected better from you.
Highland Park, Ill.
Why did you not illustrate your headline with a briefcase or an empty chair?
You owe the female executives of America an apology.
Lucinda J. Long