NEW YORK (AP) — Used to be that CEOs were hired for their knowledge of the industry, years of experience and the ability to lead with a tight fist. But the role of the top job has changed dramatically over the last several years.
CEOs increasingly are being pressured to cut costs, while growing their business. They're being prodded by investors to push for global expansion, while being asked by customers to be more socially responsible. And at a time when having strategies for social media and data security are becoming integral to doing business, CEOs are expected to keep up with the frantic pace of technology.
The new skill sets that are required for the job mean that corporations are more likely to hire from outside of the organization — and the industry — than they were in years past. It also can mean that the corner office is less forgiving than it used to be: security software maker Symantec, for instance, ousted its CEO Steve Bennett in March, the second time it has pushed out its leader in less than two years.
In fact, in the first four months of the year, 11 CEOS were forced out or fired, says a survey of private and public U.S. companies by Challenger, Gray and Christmas. That's up from 9 CEO terminations in the same period last year. And that doesn't count those who said they resigned, retired or stepped down, but who were actually pushed out.
Moreover, the average tenure for a CEO last year was 7.9 years down from 9.4 years in 2007, the start of the recession, according to Challenger.
"We are in an unprecedented era of challenge at leadership levels," said Mark Cohen, a former CEO of Sears Canada and a professor at Columbia University's Business School. "There's less patience with CEOs now."
The changing priorities have created a challenge for company's boards of directors, which must filter through a slate of candidates. They want to fill to role as quickly as possible to assure investors and customers. But the new requirements and skill sets mean the search is a lot more difficult than it has been in years past.
Here's how the search has gone for a few big companies:
Target's announcement last week that it's searching for a new CEO sheds light on a major shift.
Target's CEO search follows the abrupt departure of Gregg Steinhafel in the wake of a massive data breach and a botched up expansion plan in Canada. The nation's third largest retailer said it will search outside the company — and the industry.
If Target hires from outside, though, it would mark the first time in its 112-year-history that its leader wasn't homebred.
"It's a difficult search for a company of our magnitude," said John Mulligan, Target's chief financial officer who is interim CEO, in a recent interview with The Associated Press. But he added: "We will find the right person."
Mulligan said Target is looking for someone with the right skill sets but that understands the culture of Target. Elaine Hughes, founder and CEO of E.A. Hughes, an executive search firm that specializes in retailing, said Target needs to look outside the clothing industry and can't just use the "same Rolodex" as the retail industry keeps using.
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