Apple's Tim Cook and the rise of the 'CEO Statesmen'

The CEO of Fortune calls on business leaders to help heal an intensely polarized nation.

From Alan Murray's post-election CEO Daily:

The U.S. election appears to be heading toward a relatively orderly conclusion. The feared violence and chaos, so far, has been avoided. There was no blue wave. There was no red wave. But there is still an intensely polarized nation, almost evenly divided, highly energized, sometimes angry, and living with completely different views, and even facts, regarding their national lives. The great challenges of our time—like climate change, COVID-19, and racial injustice—are perceived as almost entirely different realities on either side of the great divide.

At a time when CEOs are increasingly involved with their employees’ well-being, that political division can’t be ignored. “For CEOs right now,” says BCG CEO Rich Lesser, “the challenge is how do you convey a sense of community and humanity and support for the democratic process at a time when there is so much distrust and division. That’s the balance many of us are trying to navigate right now.”

Alan Fleischmann of Laurel Strategies predicts the election will “further elevate the role of what I call the CEO Statesmen. These past years have seen a dramatic rise in the willingness and necessity of private sector and civil society leaders stepping up to fill the void of government inaction. This trend only accelerated this past year. And as inspiring as it has been to see CEOs speak up on issues of social and economic justice, it will be just as important for the private sector and civil society to help the nation find a healing middle ground.”

My take: Want to bet he had Tim Cook in mind?


  1. Jerry Doyle said:
    Absolutely no! There are folk who will not buy certain products (including Apple) because of CEOs involvement in what is viewed as political causes. CEOs believe erroneously that they have some chief claim to legitimacy of getting inside an American family’s head or knowing how others (making in one year what CEOs make in one hour) live or how their cellular tissue divides. We already have social, economic, business, religious and other news refracted through the lens of business people, investors, journalists & Lady Gaga who denigrated a class of folk who loved her music. Lady Gaga was the one who came across as a cancerous prejudicial, toxic stereotype leaving morbid fear in those who viewed her recent campaign clip saying, “Is this how they view us?”

    CEOs in industry & big business already are viewed as subversive influence with money over public policy. They have become so dominant as to masticate democracy & spit it out. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “… it is the power of corporations needing balanced with the interest of the general people.” Blue-collared workers, ranchers, farmers, laborers, consumers & the general public are the ones infrequently heard & listened to in explaining their grievances. Continued..

    November 7, 2020
  2. Jerry Doyle said:
    Continued… It’s no longer a top-down story anymore from the media, press, Alan Murray & CEOs. In the age of technology it is going to be the common folk using the Internet, armed with cell phones and digital cameras capable of transmitting images across a nation in seconds who will become policy makers, expressing their views, facts, lives & values.

    There is a quote by Benjamin Franklin appropriate for this blogged subject: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”

    November 7, 2020
  3. Robert Stack said:
    Re: “Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”

    With all due respect Jerry, at a time like this when some of those coming up short actually are arming themselves and traveling to Philly with AR-15s, I think this is a very inappropriate comment. As more of an observer than a commenter on this blog, I will say I think you are usually way more thoughtful than this.

    November 7, 2020
    • Jerry Doyle said:
      @Robert Stack: I suspect Benjamin Franklin at the time of his statement thought in your vein of thinking. You seem to be doing similarly in reading his quote “literally.” I am interpreting Franklin’s quote more contemporarily as “armed” with knowledge, clear information gleaned, investigation into facts, figures, in-depth study of the issues and then like your counterpart, Elliott Ness, making sure justice and truth prevails. Unfortunately, though, I would be remiss if I were not to say candidly there are communities of those of which you reference who could be provoke to proceed down your vein of thinking. We have seem such events recently in Oregon with federal land management issues, and we have similar grievances in our geographic region. It is important for policy officials to get the full story from the ground-up so as to better formulate policy from the top-down, not the reverse process. It is for that reason I do not believe CEOs have claim to a legitimacy on issues affecting common folk where CEOs can wade in to ameliorate matters for citizens of which CEOs have little practical or personal experience.

      November 7, 2020
  4. David Emery said:
    I think there’s a role to be played by CEOs, but it’s a limited role at least direct/public participation. CEOs can help generate and facilitate discussions, but they shouldn’t try to subsume the role of politicians.

    But I’d like to see people move from industry to government as a capstone in their career. I’m not advocating a revolving door, but I think getting people who have demonstrated competence involved with government is necessary to bring expertise that government tends to lack.

    November 7, 2020
  5. Rodney Avilla said:
    The only way that CEOs can help in this time of a divided country would be to encourage each side to respect the opposing side. Otherwise there can be no healing. We need CEOs to state sincerely, “I didn’t vote for him but he won, so now I will respect him as my president“. I suspect what Alan Murray wants is for CEOs to take sides (his side) and ‘tip the balance’. As an individual Cook should be able to support whatever he wants. Personally I don’t want blue and red clothing stores or department stores or computer stores. Apple the company needs to be as neutral as neutral can be.

    November 7, 2020
  6. Joe Murphy said:
    It would be a wonderful start to turn our other cheek and return to “I may not have voted for him but he won. Now I will respect him as my president.” as the majority of Americans routinely did until 2016.

    November 7, 2020
  7. David Drinkwater said:
    I think this whole discussion is missing the fundamental point of the article:

    “the challenge is how do you convey a sense of community and humanity and support for the democratic process at a time when there is so much distrust and division. That’s the balance many of us are trying to navigate right now.”

    Murray is talking about CEOs speaking diplomatically and reassuringly.

    Yes, there is a suggestions that CEOs should guide corporate policies in ways that are more global, and perhaps to a higher standard than the government requires, but that in no way indicates that he is advocating for CEOs to become government politicians.

    November 8, 2020

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