Help Wanted: CEO

Help Wanted
Help Wanted

Like me, you may have read with interest a Wall Street Journal story suggesting that "the revolving door for financial company CEO's is broken."

As the article explained, it's not the exit portion that isn't working – God knows plenty have been fired or quit – it's the fact that the really qualified candidates don't want the gigs.

For the most part, the internal pipeline is broken from accelerated, mass defections at the top. (In other words, the internal candidates who are willing to pitch the gigs aren't really experienced or qualified enough.) And the external pipeline – attractive C-level execs from non-financial companies – don't want to get anywhere near an industry with curbs on compensation, increasing government intervention, and a broken business model.

One wonders whether this is a phenomenom exclusive to the financial sector. Certainly the issue is most pronounced in that sector, but the c-suite increasingly resembles political office these days, doesn't it? As in, "Who the hell wants that job?" With most U.S. industries under attack - many in fundamental ways that parallel what's happened in banking – it's not a time for the faint of heart.


If you want to rise to the c-suite – or if you're there already and thinking about bailing – here is what to consider. It's easy to lead when times are frothy. A robust economy will cover errors in judgement, obscure lazy actions, and protect perpetrators from their own bad behavior. A poor economy demands a low tolerance to mistakes, strategic discipline, focus, courage and a willingness to make hard decisions. What we have now is a very poor economy (so italicize all the requirement above) and a fundamental reset in many industries. That reset requires a whole additional level of enterprise, imagination and nerve. The same old ways won't work, so experience and execution alone won't cut it.

Finally, if you are recruiting to hire c-level execs, you may well discover that despite it being a "buyer's market," it might be very difficult to find the right talent for these times. After all, you will be looking for extraordinary individuals (not the cast-offs of your competitors) and based on the current circumstances, they may not be looking for you.

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Erik Sorenson is CEO of Vault, the Web’s most comprehensive resource for career management and job search intelligence. Vault provides top talent with the insider information they need to make critical career decisions. An Emmy award-winning media industry veteran, Erik served as president of the MSNBC cable news channel through 2004. His experience spans radio, local and network broadcast television, cable and syndicated TV, and the Web.

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