In the last year, the Enron and WorldCom scandals, terrorist attacks and war in Afghanistan have wrought many political and social changes. Jeffrey Garten, dean of the Yale School of Management, thinks all the events also call for fundamental changes in business leadership.
Garten addresses the changes in “The Politics of Fortune,” a book that will appear in stores later this month. In the book, Garten discusses the future of American business in the wake of such acts of terrorism and high-profile accounting mismanagement. Garten has written three other books on business topics, but in his latest work he said he focused on the new business climate that emerged last fall.
“I felt that the combined impact of the terrorist attacks and the Enron scandal — changed the global business environment radically from what it was in the 1980s and 1990s,” Garten said in an e-mail. “As a dean, I wanted to think through what that meant for business leaders in this new era.”
Garten’s book, which he wrote in the 10 months following September 11, 2001, says that the events of the last year threatened the very fiber of American society and business.
“Together, terrorism and Enron-Andersen challenge the very viability of an open society — because they diminish the bonds of trust on which such a free society ultimately depends,” Garten writes.
The book calls for a new kind of business leader who is more aware of the impact that his or her decisions have on the greater good.
“The major point is that CEOs will have to be more publicly engaged,” Garten said. “They will have to run profitable companies, of course, but they will also need to think about how their role in society can further the public interest.”
Garten’s book also addresses how business can help improve homeland security, restore “trust and integrity” to the financial markets, alleviate global poverty, and contribute to better foreign policy.
“The Politics of Fortune,” which will be available in bookstores at the end of October, has garnered praise for its assessment of the current state of American business.
“[Garten’s] agenda is imaginative, realistic and compelling but, most of all, crucial in shaping our future,” said Klaus Schwab, president of the World Economic Forum.
Michael Useem, director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School agreed.
“[Garten] makes a persuasive case for business executives who transcend parochialism to see the common good,” he said.
Garten will speak about his book at the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization in December, SOM spokeswoman Karin Nobile said. He will also hold a book-signing at the Yale Bookstore on Nov. 16.
Before becoming dean in 1995, Garten held senior economic and foreign policy positions in the Nixon, Ford, Carter and Clinton administrations. His previous books were called “A Cold Peace: America, Japan, Germany, and the Struggle for Supremacy,” “The Big Ten: The Big Emerging Markets and How They Will Change Our Lives” and “The Mind of the CEO.”
Of his most recent effort, Garten said he hoped readers would find it helpful.
“I did the best I could in the time I had,” he said. “I’ll let readers decide whether it was a worthwhile effort.”