One of the more disturbing features of the modern global corporate scene is the apparent inability of lower-rung employees to transcend their status and rise to the upper echelons of corporate management. Although examples of employees starting in the mail room and ending their careers in the board room can still be found, the far more common scenario is that lower level employees, even those with white-collar or managerial positions, often end up in the same strata in which they start.
The lack of mobility and ossified stratification of the modern workplace has reached a point where, for all practical purposes, there is often a glass ceiling every bit as absolute as those that exist within the military. There, it is all but impossible for enlisted men to transcend that status and rise to the rank of officer. The officer class is produced by elite academies. And without first graduating from those, the higher levels of the organization’s hierarchy are often strictly off-limits.
This is now being mirrored in corporate life. CEOs in today’s global corporations, at least those who did not found their companies themselves, are largely the products of a handful of elite academic institutions, most of which are located in the United States. Even for regions like Latin America, a quick survey of the business elite of any given country will yield a disproportionate number of graduates from the likes of Stanford, Yale, Harvard and Wharton. Those who start off their careers as drill operators or truck drivers need not apply.
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It is in this context of rigid stratification that a story like that of Luiz Carlos Trabuco becomes so intensely interesting. Hired by Bradesco at the age of 18, from 1969 to 2009, Trabuco climbed steadily through the ranks of the bank. Along the way, he put himself through college, eventually getting a master’s degree in social psychology. His remarkable talent for administration and his track record of creating hugely profitable business units propelled him through the ranks, almost without interruption, until he finally reached the top slot of a firm with more than 100,000 employees, making him one of the most powerful people not only at Bradesco, but in all of Latin America.
This Horatio Alger story of rags-to-riches, of the transcendence of class through hard work and talent, is a welcome and heart-warming story amid the cold calculus of rigid class structure that almost completely pervades the global corporate environment today. It would, therefore, surprise many that a man who was able to transcend class and his social stratum in this way would be the first in his company’s history to begin implementing policies that would, in fact, make it more difficult for anyone else to follow in his footsteps. But this seems to be what Luiz Carlos Trabuco did.
Upon becoming CEO, he began implementing a strategy of filling most executive slots with outside talent. This caused some degree of consternation within the ranks of Bradesco, but Trabuco insisted that his reasoning was absolutely sound. In fact, he is probably right. Even though many would like to frame the system of awarding top slots to only those with the right credentials as being a sort of class nepotism, where the ones with the biggest slice of the pie get to ensure that no one else can nudge in on their party, the truth is that running a major company often takes elite level talent.
Like the minor leagues do with baseball, elite business schools and executive jobs at lower-tier corporations often serve as a recruitment pool for the best the industry has to offer. According to folha.uol.com.br add to that the fact that many of the top CEOs often carry with them a lifetime of contacts and powerful acquaintances, relationships that can help a company get favorable legislation passed or a nasty regulator off its back, and you end up with some pretty powerful arguments as to why it pays for so many corporations to avoid recruiting from within.
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