In the distant days when I started reporting on business for the BBC, I cannot remember interviewing any Chief Executive Officers. CEO was an American expression, suggesting the dash and dazzle of the corporate boss as a decisive change maker, zooming about the sky doing good things for high rewards.
Here in sober old Britain we had managing directors; in fact the banks did not even have MDs, preferring the 19th century term Chief General Managers.
In those days, in the 1970s, bosses managed businesses (where the unions and the regulators would allow them to).
They had started at or near the bottom of a company, and in most of them they moved up gradually step by step to a top job in their late 50s, seemingly inherited from the system.
That is how it used to be, or seemed to be.
These days it is different. Management has become a profession in its own right; bright young people cluster in business schools to take away bright and shiny MBAs, giving them (they hope) a fast track to the very top of the corporation.
When the going is good, corporate leaders are heroes. They take home huge rewards, they make the covers of the magazines, they are praised as visionaries for the way they use other people's money to restructure their businesses.
They are the public faces of their company. They give an organisation a human, or semi-human, face.
But are they up to it? A procession of recent corporate debacles suggests that many CEOs soon get out of their depth when the going gets tough. The credit crunch recession has shown up the slenderness of their skills.
The banks and car companies they lead have needed huge bailouts from governments to survive. The takeover strategies they pursued have gone wrong at a cost of hundreds of millions.
Shareholders have put their trust in them and been confounded.
It makes you wonder if they can do the job, despite the way they are rewarded for being corporate superstars (even when they fail).
Xinfu says it is the first global confidante for CEOs, and Steve and his colleagues have helped some of the best known bosses in business in many countries, not just Britain.
Steve Tappin tells me that he thinks two thirds of company CEOs are not up to the job ... they lack the ability to inspire others to build a corporate ideal.
This is a serious assertion, but it is not altogether surprising. As they go up through the corporate ladder, managers tend to wrap themselves in protection: qualifications, outsourced reports, hired consultants.
They make themselves ever remoter from the outside world the company is operating in, and even from the things the company makes and does. They have company drivers and corporate jets.
They need bonuses to motivate them, because the job itself is not enough. They are insulated.
And when they fall, their fall is insulated too, with a contractual payout, a short time in the wilderness, and another job in another industry.
Whether two-thirds of all the CEOs are like this, I have no idea. But they do have one important use which is very relevant indeed when disaster happens.
When things go wrong, then they take the representational blame, so that (like BP) the company can find the breathing space to recover its reputation.
It is not very inspiring role, but maybe CEOs are worth their money ... just so they can be scapegoats when the going gets tough.
Watch Your Language - Peter Day joins a group of enthusiasts determined to improve the language of business.
Keep it Local - As pubs struggle to survive, Peter Day travels through villages in Yorkshire and Cumbria to talk to local activists.
Space - Peter Day asks what happens next on the USA's journey into space.
German Pencils - Peter Day asks Faber-Castell and Staedtler how they both stay sharp ...
Building BRICS - Peter Day finds out about the BRICS - Brazil, Russia, Indonesia and China
Over A Barrel - Peter Day contemplates the turmoil in the Middle East and fears it will affect the price of oil
Reconstructing Capitalism - Peter Day hears all about the challenges to the way capitalism works.
All at Sea - Peter Day hears all about sea transport.
China Dispossessed - Peter Day hears about some of the problems caused by China's rush for prosperity.
Back on the Road - Alan Mulally tells Peter Day how he changed the way Ford works and how it is now back in the business of selling cars.
Asia Bling! - Peter Day ponders how the rise of the Asian comsumer will change business.
Euro on the Rocks - Peter Day asks what is the future for the Euro?
Bitter Pills - Peter Day looks at changing face of drug development.
Operation Robot - would you allow a robot to operate on you? Peter Day looks at robot-assisted surgery.
Growing Pains - Peter Day asks, what is the main component of growth?
After the Crunch - Government funding and regional development: the view from Newcastle.
Chips off the Old Block - Computing in the UK, past, present and future.
Hidden Depths - Graham Hawkes, DeepFlight and exploring the oceans.
Sociability - How social technology makes new business models possible.
Are CEOs Up to the Job? - Two thirds aren't according to Xinfu's Steve Tappin. Peter Day investigates.
In at the Start - Saeed Amidi and Silicon Valley
Power Play - Is the 'smart grid' the start of something big?
Now Wash Your Hands Please - How a simple idea can transform lives in the developing world
Coming Soon - What can the experience of previous financial crises tell us about the current one?
Ticking Over - Can the Isle of Man rejuvenate the business of watchmaking?
Not Just Silicon - what can Silicon Valley teach us about innovation?
Press under Pressure - what lies ahead for the world of newspaper publishing?
Remembering CK Prahalad - in a world of change and multiple opportunities, how does a company keep up?
Rwanda Rising - building a clean safe state where business can flourish.
Life Cycles - building businesses around the idea of new kinds of bikes.
Who Sets Our Standards - the business and social benefits of standardisation.
Ready to wear - the ethical issues of the international clothing industry.
Doing It Wrong - what's wrong with the way business works?
New Age - the business of aging.
Project Alcatraz - rehabilitating offenders in Venezuela.
Selling Salvation - Peter Drucker and the Salvation Army.
Let Me Entertain You - office parties and away days.
Brazil's Sugar Rush - Brazil.
Small Wonder - microfinance.
Unlimited Company - organizational models.
Credit Crunch - cash and credit.
Student Startups - student entrepreneurs.
Media Mayhem - changes in the newspaper industry.
Squeaky Clean - branding.
Battery Power - Bolivia.
Women's Work - women in the city.
Hell For Leather - John Timpson and Timpson's Shoes.
Learning Curve - organisational culture.
Let's Start a Bank - banking.
Goodbye to Intel - Craig Barrett and Intel.
Location Location - So?
Iceland feels the Heat - the credit crunch in Iceland.
The Cisco Kid - Mike Lynch and John Chambers.
Grand Design - business schools.
Power Drive - the car industry.
All New - innovation.
Europe on the edge - What is this thing called "Europe"?
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