How Should CEOs Deal with Trump?

One odd and compelling consequence of the Trump era has been the way it has affected, flummoxed, and exposed America’s corporate titans. A class of people who are accustomed to deference and are possessed of extraordinary self-confidence and agency hasn’t quite known how to react to the new regime.

Ordinarily, CEOs can support GOP standard-bearers who promise to cut taxes and slash regulations without anyone blinking. But a polarizing, willfully un–PC politician like Trump poses a challenge for many modern CEOs. He’s a walking violation of a host of human-resources policies and stands in stark opposition to the corporate-style progressivism that permeates so many consumer-facing companies today. As a group, Fortune 500 companies today are socially liberal, especially on areas surrounding diversity, gay rights, and immigration; they are unabashedly in favor of free trade and globalization, express concern about climate change, and embrace renewable energy. Trump is none of these things.

And so we’ve seen a range of reactions. There’s a group of CEO types, mostly crusty older guys like Carl Icahn and T. Boone Pickens, who are unapologetic Trump fans—and in some instances his pals. Since they founded their companies and are far beyond caring what other people think, getting in bed with Trump politically isn’t an issue.

As people in public life, CEOs often feel compelled to offer anodyne support for the new CEO of the country.

But many others have had to walk a tightrope. Immediately after the election, many CEOs felt compelled to reaffirm their own—and their companies’—values in the face of Trumpism. As Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi noted, “My employees were all crying. The question that they are asking, especially those who are not white—‘Are we safe?’ Women are asking, ‘Are we safe?’ LGBT people are asking, ‘Are we safe?’—I never thought I would have to answer those questions.” She continued: “So, I think that the first thing that we have to do is to assure everyone living in the United States will be safe.” And Pepsi, however clumsily, has attempted to capitalize on the progressive pushback against Trump’s policies—even as Nooyi serves on Trump’s Strategic and Advisory Council.

As people in public life, CEOs often feel compelled to offer anodyne support for the new CEO of the country. And that’s typically not a big deal. But some CEOs have found that doing so can get them into hot water with their customers, key employees, and endorsers.

Source: Jamie Dimon steps in it.

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