Issue #21
#21 - On reimagining work -- using the past?
June 10, 2022


#ThePastOfWork #ReimaginingWork

David Gelles, who wrote "The Man Who Broke Capitalism", is as ensconced in the business establishment as it gets: a long-time financial journalist, he writes "The Corner Office" column for the New York Times, and interviews some of the highest-profile corporate leaders in the world.

So it's no surprise he'd write a book about Jack Welch, who did more than anyone to put the notion of a "rockstar CEO" into the mainstream. But if you think it's just another book lionizing Welch as the best CEO in history -- you've got another thing coming. It is, in fact, a deeply critical look at how the business world --and broader world -- changed, starting in the early 80's; and at Welch's outsized role in that change.

This snippet ⬆️ is a summary of the decades prior to Welch: flawed as those years were, they were also marked by a much more evenly distributed set of corporate returns between companies, workers and the government. Which led in turn to an explosion in the size and incomes of the middle class.


#TheNowOfWork #ReimaginingWork

This excerpt 👆🏻, by contrast, is the world we know today.

The book makes a convincing case that Welch's decades of layoffs, outsourcing, and over-financialization are one of the main reasons for the economic morass we now live in: stagnant wages, astronomical CEO pay, deep income inequality, and a steady erosion of the middle class.

Gelles also suggests that the management world in which we work -- the harsh, "aggressive, materialistic style" of leadership we now accept as the default -- is also down to Welch; to the business press that fawned over him; to the legions of his disciples who went on to helm other huge companies after G.E.


#TheFutureOfWork #ReimaginingWork

"The Man Who Broke Capitalism" ends on a positive note, and we will too. The last chapter, "Beyond Welchism", looks at a new generation of execs who rather than pursuing profits at any cost, and optimizing only for shareholders, are exploring ways to serve employees, communities, and the environment; still squarely under the umbrella of capitalism.

This nugget, above, is one example. Once you get past the fact that so many employees at PayPal were struggling financially -- despite the firm's juicy profits -- the story of its CEO's attempt to fix that offers an inspiring form of leadership that we hope -- and need -- to see more of.

Work moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
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