Research suggests CEOs are most successful when they lead for 11+ years

New research suggests longevity is a plus for CEOs and the companies they lead.


February 3, 2020

Last year, WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann was booted from his role as CEO after serving as the company’s chief executive for 9 years. 

And just 2 months ago co-founder of Away luggage Steph Korey stepped down from her job as CEO — only to return to the post several weeks later.

Both controversial case raised a question:

How long should CEOs stay in charge?

Eleven to 15 years (at least according to new research from Spencer Stuart, a search firm for executives).

According to the research, CEOs enter their golden years once they’ve accrued deep institutional knowledge and dealt with several sh*t storms — and that usually takes at least 11 years.

And CEOs are staying in charge longer

CEOs in the S&P 500 stayed at the helm for an average of 7.2 years in 2009. In 2018, they hung on to power for an average of 10.2 years.

And it’s also becoming more common for founders to give themselves special voting powers or stock majorities in order to stay in power (no, we’re not just talking about Zuckerberg — execs at Snap and Lyft also have supervoting supercontrol).

Still, all of this doesn’t mean super-CEOs can’t screw up: WeWork’s Neumann and Uber’s Travis Kalanick both got the boot despite owning supervoting shares.

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