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The Ill Posed Executive Essay

2872 words - 12 pages

The Ill-Posed Executive

"The nineteenth-century legal scholar Schultes described public trust rights as 'unalienable.' He explained that 'things which relate to the public good cannot be given, sold, or transferred by the King to another person'" (Cronin and Kennedy 142). More specifically, the "things" Schultes refers to are property common to all citizens of the world including, but by no means limited to, the air, the land, and the water. While the vast majority of humankind would agree in principle with Schultes's concerns, regulations on the use of particular natural bodies understood as public property are no longer strongly enforced. Upholding such rules is simply no longer a ...view middle of the document...

Thus, it seems appropriate that those with ownership of the public property assume upkeep of that land. Just as "a company's first responsibility, as agents of the shareholders, is to maximize the return on their constituents' investment," so too should a "public land"-owning firm's primary responsibility, as agents of the community, be to maintain, and where practicable improve, the richness of their grant" (Reich). And who exactly is chiefly liable for the actions of the firm? The answer is clear: the chief executive officer. These executives dictate and implement policy; they have the last word. With power comes responsibility, and to the extent that the executive is responsible for the maximization of profit, the well-being of his or her employees, and ultimately the survival of the firm, he or she is equally, if not more responsible, for the conservation of public land entrusted to the firm.

It would be unjust to blithely impose judgment on the executive without first reaching a reasonable assessment of precisely what is required of, and achievable by, this officer. The executive must be political while being representative. His obligations extend in many directions, some of which may seem at cross purposes. In his essay "The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Profits," Milton Friedman argues that "a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct responsibility to his employers. That responsibility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom" (174). The absoluteness of the executive's accountability necessitates his clear understanding of the company's history and present condition. Simultaneously, the CEO must always have one eye glued to the future; the definitive role of this office is to consider the most profitable course available to the company with its limited resources, and then determine the most prudent route by which the company will proceed. In short, the executive provides the firm with a vision.

By the time an individual has reached this summit of the corporate mountain, he or she should be an expert on the inner workings of the firm. As Pat C. Hoy explains in his essay on "Leadership," a CEO should use field knowledge as a guide to directing others: "[A leader has] been a soldier before he [becomes] an officer, and he [must] never [forget] what it felt like to receive orders. Yet when it [comes] time to give orders, he [must] never [forget] that he [has] become an officer" (455). Their prior experience with performing day-to-day functions as intern, employee, supervisor, and manager should have equipped them with superior skills in communication and execution. This wisdom and confidence should radiate from the corporate figurehead; interaction with other members of the firm from all...

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