3 Top Obstacles Blocking CEO Success

CEOs have less time than ever today to prove themselves. The average CEO tenure in the U.S. is about five years (according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas), and the Center for Creative Leadership says that 40% of CEOs are fired within their first 18 months on the job.

Why the high turnover rate? There are myriad reasons, but failure often starts with the person. Many CEOs are their own worst enemy. They dive in head first, neglecting to build a solid foundation for success. Here are the three top obstacles blocking success for many CEOs.

“Being a specialist doesn’t prepare them for the CEO role. For that, they must become a generalist.”

1. Lack of preparation. CEOs have historically been extremely successful in their chosen endeavors. Whether they come from sales or engineering, they’re usually the smartest person in the room in their subject area. However, being a specialist doesn’t prepare them for the CEO role. For that, they must become a generalist. In the CEO chair, they are constantly faced with issues they’ve never had to deal with in their careers. All of a sudden they are no longer the smartest person in the room. Those who have not studied the role and aren’t prepared for what they will face often will react negatively, magnifying their character flaws and leading to failure.

2. Character flaws. Unprepared to deal with the many pressures and accountabilities of the CEO role, many people react by becoming a micromanager. Filled with hubris and/or fear of not knowing exactly what to do, they attempt to control everyone around them. They obsess over everything from the color of the walls to the format of the company’s business cards. Focusing on tactics over strategy, they approach the job minute by minute as the next issue hits their desk.

Others react in the opposite way: If they cannot control everything, they will control nothing. They assume a hands-off style after pronouncing a grand strategy to the company. They have little interaction with anyone and are often surprised when issues develop. Then, with scant knowledge of the company’s day-to-day operations, they cannot help resolve those issues.


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