Back in the early 2000s, most CEOs could all but guarantee they would last about one decade in one corner office position. In light of shifting economic conditions over the last 10 years, these business leaders now serve an average of 8.4 years, according to a new study.
The Conference Board’s 2012 CEO Succession Practices report made that determination following a thorough analysis of S&P 500 companies in the last year. Although a nearly endless number of reasons could explain the drop in average tenure, researchers specifically mentioned more CEOs leaving voluntarily due to expanding pressures.
Another explanation has to do with the evolving relationship between corporate officers and the boards to which they are responsible. The business world has become increasingly competitive, leaving many business decision makers unwilling to wait for results.
“You can look at the CEO relationship with their companies as a form of marriage,” executive leadership expert Lauren Mackler told The New York Times in 2008. “And roughly one of every two marriages right now is going to end in divorce. We’ve become a disposable society. Everything is dispensable, including people.”
Mackler’s comments came several years before the most recent populist sentiment that has swept through America, as certain executives have been vilified for the pay they receive relative to their perceived output. Corporate boards are unlikely to be isolated from feedback coming from business stakeholders, including shareholders, so they may be more willing to pull the trigger and dismiss an underperforming CEO earlier in his or her tenure.
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