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The short life of enlightened leadership (and how to extend it)

Source |  | ByJames O’Toole

As recently as the 1980s, many publicly traded U.S. corporations idealistically sought to spread their wealth among their employees. Generous benefits such as profit sharing, stock ownership, lifetime pensions, career-long training, and even job security were routine at such companies as AT&T, General Electric, Hallmark, J.C. Penney, Procter & Gamble, and Sears. But these practices mostly vanished before the turn of the millennium. In today’s companies, as New York Times reporters Nelson Schwartz and Michael Corkery noted in an October 2018 front-page article, employees tend to “lose benefits while shareholders grab the spoils.” For example, Amazon’s employee stock program was canceled in 2018 to offset the cost of a salary hike. When today’s business leaders wish to demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility, they tend to do so through environmental practices and transparency policies. And if history is any guide, these too are likely to be short-lived.

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