C-Suite: Follow the Leaders
By Allegra Bennett
As we name the Top 100 Executives in America, we find there increasingly are strong executives of color ahead of them to emulate and in their own careers have become the examples others want to follow.
Over at the McDonald’s Corporation, the C-suite gods certainly aligned for Donald Thompson over the 22 years he has been there. When he assumes the leadership chair as President and Chief Executive Officer July 1, Thompson, an engineer with roots in Chicago’s infamous Cabrini Green public housing project, will oversee a global company with revenues totaling $27.4 billion (as of March 2012) with an African-American market that accounts for a large percentage of its U.S. sales. He’ll be the face of a successful company where the ethnic power trio of African Americans, Asians and Hispanic consumers contribute a reported 40% of McDonald’s current U.S. business.
He also will officially bring to six the number of African Americans who currently head some of the most iconic brands in the world and comprise the rare one percent of CEO’s of the 500 largest companies in America. Over the years, there have been thirteen African Americans in this leadership role. In that one percent circle are Ursula Burns at Xerox($22.66Binrevenues),KenFraseratMerck($48.20 B in revenues), Clarence Otis at Darden Restaurant ($7.92 B in revenues), Roger Ferguson at TIAA-CREF ($487 B in assets under management) and Ken Chenault at American Express ($29.12 B in revenues).
The accomplishment of the one percent and the rise of Rosalind Brewer, who earlier this year became the first African-American woman to be named President and CEO of the Sam’s Club division within the Wal-Mart corporation, gives pause to examine what is so special about any of these corporate leaders. A few executives in the know say it’s no puzzle.