Wherefore art thou, CEO??

CNNMoney.com recently reported the results of a surprising survey: Year-to-date CEO departures are up almost 10% from 2005.

Up almost 10%. That’s a big increase.

Ford Motor Company, HP (God, what a mess!), Viacom… all these are high profile organziations with recent chief executive changes; the truth is, however, that many of the almost-1,000 CEOs that left their jobs this year were from companies much like yours. Not necessarily a newsworthy event to CNNMoney.com, but significant nonetheless.

Why are these CEOs leaving, I wonder? The CEO job is, purportedly, the pinnacle — the crowning achievement of a management professional. Why, then, the departures? Is it disappointment? Apathy? Lack of motivation? Excessive oversight?

Hard to say, since it’s likely all this and still more. The attention on the CEO’s office has never been greater; the penalty for failures, even short term ‘blips,’ can be painful. New SEC oversight for publicly-traded companies has supported short-term positions in leadership — an unintended consequence of recent legislation.

During a recent CEO search, most candidates are sizing up my opportunity much more closely than I’ve ever seen in the past. they want details on the predecessor’s successes and failures, reasons for leaving, and detailed background on Boards of Directors. All this is good, of course, as it increases the likelihood of a solid match. It also, however, points out that the CEO position is no longer this “holy grail” of an opportunity; people are evaluating it much more for personal fit and likelihood of success, regardless of short-term financial value.

Regardless, it’s an issue we must contend with. Short-term results begats short-term leadership… no way around that. Should our focus really be so close-in, or should we create, manage, and lead our organizations for the longer haul??

Can we do that with frequent changes at the CEO chair?

I don’t know for sure… but I doubt it.


Kevin Berchelmann

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