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The Hero’s FarewellWhat Happens When CEOs Retire$
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Jeffrey Sonnenfeld

Print publication date: 1991

Print ISBN-13: 9780195065831

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195065831.001.0001

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Corporate Folk Heroes: Living Legends or Business Cheerleaders?

Corporate Folk Heroes: Living Legends or Business Cheerleaders?

(p.39) 4 Corporate Folk Heroes: Living Legends or Business Cheerleaders?
The Hero’s Farewell

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the question of whether corporate leaders should be considered as cultural heroes. It seeks to determine whether top leaders are different from other older workers through prominence alone. The chapter argues in that there is one quality that sets leaders apart and that is their career development as folk heroes. The “ heroic” activities of modern-day chief executives, their role in concrete decision-making, and their symbolic representations of corporate leadership are examined. After establishing that chief executives may, at the least, serve heroic roles within the cultures of their own firms, the chapter considers the powerful tradition of heroes in American culture from the cornfield to the battlefield, arriving eventually at the door of the executive suite. Further, five personal qualities common to American business heroes and how they satisfy society's thirst for such heroism are discussed.

Keywords:   cultural heroes, heroism, business heroes, corporate leaders, career development, chief executives, corporate leadership, American culture

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