More CEOs Have to Go

fired4On Sunday night came the stunning news that GM CEO Rick Waggoner was going to be ousted from his job. Waggoner had been there for decades, so he could not hide behind the fact that he was a relative newcomer to the industry (Bob Nardelli of Chrysler can make that claim). Since GM had lost a whopping  $80 billion dollars, his firing should come as little surprise. The company had also received billions in bailout money, and is still teetering on bankruptcy.

Where have all the  leaders gone? The truth is that the most authentic leaders don’t wait to be fired when things go desperately wrong. Take the former CEO of Siemens—Klaus Kleinfeld—who is now CEO of Alcoa. When there were alleged wrongdoings in his company, he resigned from his post, even though he, personally, had done nothing wrong  (in the interest of disclosure, I had co-hosted a leadership seminar at his firm).

There are two situations in which  someone should voluntarily step down from their office, making room for new blood:  

1. When confidence in your firm has eroded so badly that no one believes you anymore;

2. When you have lost the company so much money you cannot even count it, even if it was given to you in thousand dollar bills.

If you are a CEO you know if either #1 or #2 or both apply to you. If they do, fall on your sword and leave voluntarily. You probably will be helping more people than you know—including yourself. That’s because it will free you to find another post that may fit you far better.


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