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Amy M. Wilkinson
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Amy M. Wilkinson

Amy M. Wilkinson is a senior fellow at Harvard University's Center for Business and Government and a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Visit her < a href="www.amymwilkinson.com">website for more.

Don't let a few bad apples spoil the bunch

Q: Tony Hayward, once credited for BP's "green" turnaround, is forced to resign in disgrace. Michael Dell, the revolutionary high-tech entrepreneur, is sanctioned for misleading investors. Wall Street titans, once lionized, are now reviled. Where have all the CEO heroes gone?

CEO heroes exist all around us. Somehow America has forgotten that our vibrant economy, the mass majority of our jobs, and the products we use every day are a result of strong business leadership.

When was the last time you went to the grocery store to find fresh fruit, sliced turkey, toilet paper, deodorant and a host of other products waiting on the shelf? The CEOs of Safeway, Giant, Whole Foods and many other retailers quietly enable our lives. We love to hate health care industry giants, but if you, or a family member, have survived a major illness, CEOs at Pfizer, Merck, Eli Lilly or Johnson & Johnson are to thank for their investments in drug development.

Somehow we only hear about bad apple CEOs. Yes, there are leaders who have violated our trust and profoundly mismanaged their organizations. Yet, the vast majority of CEOs quietly create jobs for over 80% of America's workers and build products to support our way of life.

In recent years, Google has created 22,000 jobs and put information at our fingertips. Apple has revolutionized music players and cell phones and irrevocably changed the way we interact with technology. EBay has empowered citizens to buy and sell online and Intel has built a computer chip that is 1,000 times more powerful, 100,000 times smaller, and 1 million times cheaper than that of MIT's mainframe in 1965.

We don't think to thank the CEO of Waste Management when trash disappears from our curbs, but 20 million households across North America rely on the company to remove their trash. And, when we need to send an urgent package, FedEx is there to deliver over 8 million worldwide shipments the next day.

Further, in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, CEOs donated more than $148 million in immediate aid. Many companies donated their own products, 3M donated bandages and splints, GlaxoSmithKline donated oral and topical antibiotics, and Procter and Gamble gave household products like soap, bleach and flashlights. After Hurricane Katrina, when local services were destroyed, FedEx used it planes to transport aid relief, and Walmart gave 1,500 truckloads of free merchandise and 100,000 free meals.

So where are corporate heroes? They are working quietly among us. Don't let a few bad apples spoil the bunch.

By Amy M. Wilkinson

 |  July 28, 2010; 11:19 AM ET
Category:  CEOs , Corporate leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Heroes and villians have always been there | Next: Our 'shut-eye' corporate sentries

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It does seem that people sometimes forget where our daily standard of living, perhaps the best in human history, comes from.

Posted by: CodyR | July 28, 2010 3:52 PM
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Agreed that there are quiet heroes, but also see Jehovahinfo's point that greed and missteps exist in CEO world too. Refreshing to read a positive piece though.

Posted by: JulieAK | July 28, 2010 3:48 PM
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Greedy Eli Lilly made $40 billion (and counting) on wicked Zyprexa drug that helped only 20% of the patients actually indicated for it.
Put it this way: Zyprexa is like giving toxic cancer chemotherapy drugs to patients who don't have cancer!

Zyprexa has generated a lot of bad press for Eli Lilly and they still have unresolved Zyprexa settlement claims.
Eli Lilly is reaping the whirlwind for unethical marketing of Zyprexa that has caused suffering and deaths.DON'T EVER FORGET THIS:Zyprexa up to $14 per pill charged to insurance plans of the mentally challenged less able to advocate for themselves.
*
Daniel Haszard Zyprexa whistle-blower and patient who got diabetes from it. http://www.zyprexa-victims.com

Posted by: jehovahinfo | July 28, 2010 12:48 PM
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