CEO Jitters

January 09, 2012

CEO Jitters

RHR International was mentioned today in an article in the WSJ about the recent revolving door for CEOs. Not that this is new. CEOs have been coming and going for some time now. But what was new was that among the 83 CEOs of publicly held companies surveyed, the board seemed to be a greater source of tension than it used to be. Nearly three quarters wish they were included more in board discussions of succession planning.  And as one would expect, the top two threats to their tenure, according to CEOs, were the current economy (39%) and rapid industry change (22%).  However, a third top threat to CEO tenure was strategy disagreements with the board (17%).  As a watcher of  CEO trends, I find it noteworthy that CEOs mentioned disagreements with boards and desire greater collaboration over transitioning.  The disagreements over strategy (spin offs, shedding assets, etc) does seem to be a rising cause for CEO exits these days. Something has changed.  I wonder if the new tension that is developing is because boards are more active now because of the criticism that they were no more than a rubber stamp on CEO activities or if the strategic choices facing boards today are infinitely more complex and disruptive. When no one knows the true answer, there is room for disagreement. CEOs and boards seem to be caught in this new tango.
Another finding which I liked seeing because it provides some hard numbers about something I have observed was that half of CEOs feel isolated and lonely. For this reason, CEOs should reach out to other CEOs in different industries, find mentors or retired CEOs to talk to. It can be debilitating so finding an ear to listen and advise is highly recommended.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross
lesliegainesross@gmail.com

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of reputations.

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