The Wall Street Journal article on Baby Boomer CEOs and their reluctance to step down struck a chord.
In the article, the Journal cites a 60-something chief executive who had hired his successor and then, quite simply, refused to leave. The exact same thing happened to me 12 years ago.
I was hired by a 65-year-old CEO to be his heir apparent. Foolishly, I took his word that he’d be gone within a year. Instead, I was the one who ended up leaving.
After settling in, I discovered that I was only the latest in a long line of successors this ‘lion in winter’ had hand-picked for the assignment. Truth be told, though, he had no desire to ever relinquish the reins. So, he made life unbearable for we CEOs in waiting and forced us out, one by one.
Every cloud does indeed have its silver lining, though, and so did this one. Immediately after leaving that hellish environment, I holed up with Sir Edward Moed in his squalid, one bedroom apartment and launched Peppercom.
Oh, and the CEO in question? He finally disappeared into the sunset about five years ago. It just goes to show that Baby Boomer CEOs aren’t unique in their desire to hang on as long as possible. In fact, history’s pages are replete with ‘chief executives’ like Napoleon, Caligula and Saddam Hussein who had no desire to ever let go.
Thanks to Laura Zanzal for the idea.
I agree with CapComm. From what I read, isn’t being a CEO about serving the company, not about oneself?
I guess that’s the power of ego.
Jim Collins in “Good to Great” describes Level 5 leadership as (and I paraphrase) a willingess to forego personal ego in the interest of building something greater than themselves. Collins says that the ambition of a Level 5 leader is for their institution first. Having said that, it’s clear that such CEOs are not likely Level 5 leaders, since they have in their own minds become more important than their companies.