TradeBriefs Editorial

From the Editor's Desk

The Inside Story of MacKenzie Scott, the Mysterious 60-Billion-Dollar Woman

Amazon's first employee, Jeff Bezos's ex-wife, and one of the world's richest women is rewriting the philanthropy playbook

While Jeff Bezos was building Amazon from a garage into one of the most powerful companies on earth and becoming the richest businessmen of this age, the world knew very little about his wife, MacKenzie, a novelist and a mother of four who helped start Amazon from that garage. Even after their divorce last year, accompanied by a public affair and scandal, thrust MacKenzie Scott (the name she took after the split) into the spotlight, she remained a private and elusive figure. Now, Scott, one of the richest women in the world, a billionaire tens times over, announced in July that she was giving away $1.7 billion to a wide swath of nonprofits, from historically Black colleges to a crisis text line. The gift was stunning in scale and in approach: Scott was making a mark as a new kind of philanthropist.

With a gift of that size, Scott could've built a cancer center, had a museum wing named after her, made a college rededicate itself in her name. Or, like virtually every other person who's made significant amounts of money from tech, she could've created an organization to dole out grants based on her notions about how best to fix social issues. She chose another route.

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TradeBriefs Editorial

From the Editor's Desk

Remote Work Is Killing the Hidden Trillion-Dollar Office Economy

From airlines to Starbucks, a massive part of our economy hinges on white-collar workers returning to the office

For a decade, Carlos Silva has been gluing, nailing, and re-zippering shoes and boots at Stern Shoe Repair, a usually well-trafficked shop just outside the Metro entrance at Union Station in Washington, D.C. On a typical day, he would arrive at 7 a.m. and stay until 8 p.m., serving the crowds of professionals shuttling by on their way to work. But since the near-shutdown of office work and train travel, he has been closing the shop at 4 p.m. "There is no traffic, my friend. The whole station is dead," says Silva. "Now it's only a part-time job."

In the five months since the coronavirus forced a lockdown of U.S. businesses, economists have focused much attention on the devastation of mom-and-pop businesses, brick-and-mortar shops, bars and restaurants, and massive chains. But they have mostly overlooked a looming threat to a vastly larger and more consequential galaxy of businesses, one worth trillions of dollars a year in GDP and revolving around a single, much underappreciated economic actor - the white-collar office worker.

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TradeBriefs Editorial

From the Editor's Desk

Why the World Needs Self-Reflective Leaders

The coronavirus crisis facilitates the rise of autocratic and narcissistic leaders just when we least need them.

When asked what the post-Covid world might look like, French author Michel Houellebecq said, "The same - only worse." While the quip is funny on the surface, there is indeed reason for all of us to wonder where the world is headed.

In a recent webinar, Manfred Kets de Vries, INSEAD Distinguished Clinical Professor of Leadership Development & Organisational Change, shared his thoughts on what the current crisis means for leaders. Drawing from the teachings of the early Greek philosophers, he said that the inscription on the temple of Apollo in Delphi, "Know thyself", remains utterly relevant to this day. Indeed, a large part of his life's work has been to help executives become more self-reflective leaders.

"Most people are strangers to themselves," he said. A lot of them resort to the manic defence - filling their calendar with a flurry of activities meant to prevent them from having any time to reflect. They are always running, without knowing what they are running for or running to. Also, they feel drained, but they don't know why. Others, having reached the pinnacle of professional success, fail to find meaning. All too often, excess greed has left them very lonely.

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