How Top Executives Lived (Fortune, Circa 1955)

How top executives live (Fortune, 1955)

(Nice long Sunday read)

The American executive in his office is a familiar figure; he is, typically, decisive, somewhat aloof, and generally regarded by his employees with a certain awe. In the life he leads outside his office, however, he is a much less familiar character; the occasional pictures painted of him by fiction writers tend to be romantic, or even lurid, and with the possible exception of John Marquand’s heroes, the fictional executive is rarely a man you have met. Yet millions of Americans diligently aspire to the life of a top executive, coveting his opportunities for pleasure while, actually, they have only the faintest notion of what his life is really like or of what he does when he goes home.

There are in the U.S. approximately 30,000 executives, with incomes of $50,000 or more. These men sit on the top-most rungs of the business ladder either as managers or as owners of their own businesses. Obviously there is no “average” executive among them (they are all singular men). But their lives do have certain common characteristics, and there is visible a kind of composite way of executive life.

The successful American executive, for example, gets up early–about 7:00 A.M.–eats a large breakfast, and rushes to his office by train or auto. It is not unusual for him, after spending from 9:00 A.M. until 6:00 P.M. in his office, to hurry home, eat dinner, and crawl into bed with a briefcase full of homework. He is constantly pressed for time, and a great deal of the time he spends in his office is extraneous to his business. He gets himself involved in all kinds of community work, either because he wants to or because he figures he has to for the sake of public relations.

If he is a top executive he lives on an economic scale not too different from that of the man on the next-lower income rung. He surrenders around 40 per cent of his salary to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (he may cough up as much as 75 per cent) but still manages to put a little of his income in stocks, bonds, life insurance. He owns two cars, and gets along with one or two servants. What time he has left from his work–on weekends and brief vacations–he spends exercising, preferably outdoors, and usually at golf. Next to golf, fishing is the most popular executive diversion.

He spends almost no time on politics. He entertains often because he must (i.e., for business reasons or on account of his wife) and, under much the same compulsion, he attends cultural events. He does little reading outside of newspapers, newsmagazines, reports, and trade papers. (For a notable exception, see “Texas Eastern’s Naff,” page 108.) He drinks, if he drinks at all, moderately and on a schedule. Alcoholism, it is clear, does not go with success and is to be found only among some executives’ bored wives. Extramarital relations in the top American business world are not important enough to discuss.

Read the full article here…


One Response to “How Top Executives Lived (Fortune, Circa 1955)”
  1. 1ofthemany says:

    Hummm Executive Ego way too big, this is the problem with many people in general, get rid of it. We are the same naked. Too much to haul around all your life. Never be in awe of anyone unless it is Mother Teresa and so on.People need to get a grip and help one another, not have people being afraid of them for their position or Role. If it was not for the —for lack of a better word — and going with todays societal thinking–Leader$, the— again for lack of a better word due to todays thinking, Little people, they/executives/politicians and so on, would be nowhere. It is a joint effort regardless, if you have the right person at the helm all goes very well if not you have chaos, and that is what we have today.

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