The minute you think something is really changing, or a new movement is afoot, insert name here: Activist shareholders or #Me, Too, the outcry dies down and things go back to normal. That's not to say there isn't positive diversity movement afoot. It's just not creating progress at the rate many have predicted but have been disappointed to see fall short.
Conflicting facts and data don't help. A recent news cycle created some real head scratching for the first time in a while. In two days, stories and sources painting two different pictures appeared in the Fake News Era (FNE), with the combined effect begging for a reset.
First, an Oct. 3rd news story in Bloomberg Business https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-03/older-ceos-are-keeping-their-jobs-longer-thanks-to-bull-market (Sources: Conference Board, Heidrick & Struggles Board Monitor) reported that older CEOs were staying in their jobs for longer than average following uncertainty created by the Great Recession. This line of reporting seemed to suggest that the devil you know is always better than the devil you don't know.
Since 2000, or the last big economic peak until a new one is marked, companies have been largely self selecting from internal/external slates of candidates with fewer "going outside" exceptions, as it once was called. The CEO turnover beat has grown dull yet highly lucrative for succession experts and leadership development gurus who have pretty much convinced themselves that transferability of talent and leadership from one industry to one another is a bygone concept.
The next story, an Oct. 4th A Wall Street Journal piece titled, "CEO Tenure is Getting Shorter. Maybe that's a Good Thing?" https://www.wsj.com/articles/ceo-tenure-is-getting-shorter-maybe-thats-a-good-thing-1538664764?ns=prod/accounts-wsj appeared based on GE's CEO firing and seemed to suggest a different reality. CEOs aren't lasting as long, 4.8 years on average, and turnover is now back in vogue based on several departures over the summer at big companies. At least two respected figures on my social feeds fanned the short-term flames. Big brand name companies not doing anything for years have that effect sometimes when they drop the hammer.
So what are we led to conclude about the CEO/board picture? No matter what you read day-to-day, no matter what any so called expert says, no matter if you're a CEO who gets fired or a budding board-level prospect, the overall climate may be changing, but it's not changing at the rate the headlines suggest. Nothing ever does.
Think of it as a proxy on a long, well-lived life. Some things go up, some things go down. All in all chances are you're going to have a steady run, assuming good health, love and faith. Which surprisingly are never publicly reviewed as pre-requisites for top jobs. Maybe they should be? Call it the Ken Chenault effect, or something along similar lines. It's impossible to cite a better story of CEO work and life than the former Chairman and CEO of American Express modeled prior to leaving the game earlier this year.
TGR pauses now to recognize the late, great Gerry Roche, a CEO kingmaker of the first order: https://www.wsj.com/articles/genial-gerry-roche-made-himself-a-superstar-among-executive-recruiters-1536332339. While we're sad that he's no longer with us, it's heartening to know that Gerry lived a full life watching, working and living within the same messy picture outlined here. And that he did it authentically while holding a long-term view focused on what matters most: Relationships. Not the transactional mess that gets passed off as relational today; more to the point, that real relationship, in any context but especially business, starts with being a friend. Or as Gerry liked to say, a friend is a treasure that you can keep forever.
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