The rootless creative class and its rivals

CEOs of large public and private enterprises, the likeliest and most accomplished examples of the rootless creative class, frequently make use of others for their own professional ambitions. Whether discharging moral or official responsibilities or simply contributing (often unwittingly) to corporate performance, these folks frequently seek allies, either face-to-face or by professional affiliation.

The motives of such allies range widely, but may well center on satisfaction with external recognition of their contributions. A leader who oversees a multi-national operation often views gratitude and compliance with demands for cooperation with other elites, often from outside his organization, as recognition of the contribution he is making. In short, recognition for making an impact is not the driver for an interpersonal alliance, but the effect is often very powerful. In perhaps the greatest episode of this type, Donald Rumsfeld accumulated large numbers of peers over the years in a head-on rivalry with fellow business people and policymakers. Rumsfeld, then the wunderkind CEO of major industrial company Westinghouse, created a highly political coalition with several powerful Republican politicians. He felt that he was not only emulating the “corporate elitism” of Republican icons like Theodore Roosevelt, but also claiming some of the political advantage of a similar leader in Germany, Albert Speer. Unlike Rumsfeld, however, Speer could not enjoy the high degree of support and distinction with which Rumsfeld had enjoyed the support of Republicans for decades.

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