Over the past year, RHR International and Chief Executive Group have partnered on the publication of a series of articles entitled The Life Cycle of the CEO. (ChiefExecutive.net/tag/life-cycle-of-a-ceo). That series addresses five phases in the average tenure of a CEO, outlining the key tasks and challenges that must be managed for a successful term.
On the other side of the ledger, however, are CEOs who are not successful and wind up leaving their organizations prematurely. This article will address the most common reasons that contribute to CEO failure in the hope that other CEOs can avoid this fate, which can have a devastatingly negative impact on all enterprise stakeholders.
Poor Company Performance
While nearly every company will be faced with headwinds at one time or another, how CEOs deal with those headwinds will determine a board’s willingness to support the sailor in navigating the storm. Having assessed hundreds of CEOs and CEO succession candidates over the decades, my colleagues at RHR and I have seen repeated patterns in the psychological makeup and decision-making that drives the leadership behavior of CEOs who fail. Some of the derailing patterns include:
The number of CEOs who were dismissed in the last few years for improper conduct personally or by members of the organization is staggering. In 2005, Harry Levinson, the highly-lauded management psychologist, used the term “recrudescent narcissism” to describe situations in which an executive with a healthy amount of ego responds to the deference and obsequious behavior of others toward him or her. The combination results in those narcissistic leaders thinking that the rules and norms of society do not apply to them and they display egregiously poor judgment.
When executives are dismissed because of misconduct within the enterprises they lead, it is usually due to the leader not giving sufficient attention to the culture of the organization. These leaders often emphasize performance over methods. The message these leaders convey, subtly and not so subtly, is “you will be judged on the results you get, not how you get them.”
How to Avoid the Death Cycle
While each situation and CEO leader is unique, following the guidelines below will reduce the likelihood of an early departure and maximize the prospects for a full lifecycle:
Remember, an unexamined organization is not worth leading, and an unexamined leader is not worth following.
By Paul Winum
Source: Chief Executive
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