Large numbers of CEOs and senior executives have soured on the chief executive position, according to Burson-Marsteller’s new Building CEO Capital study. A hefty 73 percent of CEOs have entertained the thought of quitting, a 35 percent increase over pre-Enron CEO responses (54 percent) in 2000.
“Reluctance to accept the top slot comes at a time when corporate America is in need of more than a few good CEOs,” says Patrick Ford, chair of Burson-Marsteller’s corporate and financial practice. “Like it or not, successfully restoring trust in corporate America lies in the willingness of upcoming qualified CEOs to take risks, roll up their sleeves and restore the reputation of the office.”
CEOs are not the only ones to have reservations about pursuing the corner office. When asked if they’d like to be CEO today, more than one-third (35 percent) of the senior executives surveyed say they would turn down the offer. Although considerably lower than one year ago (54 percent) when corporate scandals rocked the worldwide business community, the reluctance to assume the chief executive office is still higher than it was two years ago (27 percent) when Enron had yet to become a household name.
Reluctance to take on the CEO position today is hardly surprising, says Leslie Gaines-Ross, Burson-Marsteller’s chief knowledge & research officer and reputation expert. “The increasing pace and impatience of the modern business world leaves little time to build CEO credibility and reputation. A magnifying glass is focused on the CEO’s daily activities, and company balance sheets and share price. Those who would want this job will need a healthy dose of confidence, stamina and humility to persevere.”
Additional findings underline the challenges facing CEOs:
· CEOs are under severe pressure to meet stakeholder demands with increasingly compressed time schedules. In Burson-Marsteller’s research, business influencers report that new CEOs have little time to prove themselves—approximately nine months to earn employees’ trust and to develop a strategic vision and 14 months to execute on first-100-days promises.
· CEOs are operating in a “prove it” environment. The new research found that successful CEOs are expected to spend 60 percent of their time on execution and 40 percent on strategic vision.
· CEOs are being “kept awake at night” worrying about the competition (86 percent), growth (81 percent) and increasing shareholder value (80 percent). These demands require CEOs to have a more complex set of skills compared to two years ago.