An expert on ethical leadership analyzes the complicated history of business people who tried to marry the pursuit of profits with virtuous organizational practices—from British industrialist Robert Owen to American retailer John Cash Penney and jeans maker Levi Strauss to such modern-day entrepreneurs as Anita Roddick and Tom Chappell.
The...stories in Mr. O’Toole’s admiring but unflinching survey, plucked from England and America over the past two centuries, often inspire, even if few of the successes endured ... The good news is that practicing the golden rule has generally been a winning business strategy. The converse has also been true ... Mr. O’Toole is careful not to claim too much. He notes that the commitment to ideals has often lapsed after the founder departed or the family ownership changed ... But even if idealism is transient, Mr. O’Toole has made a strong case that enlightened stewardship is in the interest of stockholders. In setting out to write a brief for social responsibility, he has delivered some managerial wisdom.
...not a hagiography lauding the careers of these 'enlightened capitalists' ... but a cautionary look at how so many of their sustainable practices were cut short ... At a time when more and more consumers expect business to benefit the greater good, the book is timely. It asks big questions like whether socially virtuous business tactics are actually compatible with shareholder capitalism, and, as he writes in the preface, what may matter most: Whether in the 'collective judgment of corporate executives,' executives actually 'believe it is possible—or sensible—to try to do good as they seek to do well.'
... a timely work ... While [O’Toole's] book is not an easy read — he has never met a detail he doesn’t like — it offers important insight, especially for anyone who thinks the kind of change we seem to want will be easy.