According to an article in Forbes earlier this month, CEOs are leaving their companies at a record pace in 2019. Based on a report cited by the article, by the end of August this year, 1,009 chief executives had stepped down — substantially higher than the 879 a year ago, and more even than in the previous record year, 2008, when we were in the depths of the recession. So my friend Bill George’s guide to retirement for CEOs, published in the Harvard Business Review last week, is not only very informative but very well timed as well:
When Lloyd Blankfein was preparing to retire as chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs on October 1, 2018, he wrote a poignant letter to employees that captured his ambivalence about stepping down. “It’s always been hard for me to imagine leaving,” wrote Blankfein, who had just turned 64. “When times are tougher, you can’t leave. And when times are better, you don’t want to leave. Today, I don’t want to retire from Goldman Sachs, but…it feels like the right time.”
Getting this timing right is an essential part of a CEO’s job—and it’s more difficult than it appears. For leaders who have spent decades working to reach the pinnacle of their careers—with all the power, perks, and prestige that come with the role—retiring can be a scary, almost existential prospect. Their self-worth is often connected to their work, and the questions they face go to the heart of their self-image: How can I remain vital and relevant? Will people still respect me without my title? Where should I live now that I’m not tied to headquarters? How will I fill my days? Without an organization to lead, how can I continue to make a difference in the world?
Read the full article here.