How the Faces of Leadership have Changed This Year

Earlier this year, CEO turnover spiked in January and February, but it has since tapered off.

Earlier this year, CEO turnover spiked in January and February, but it has since tapered off. In May, the number of CEOs who left companies—80—was the lowest monthly figure since December 2010, according to the Challenger, Gray & Christmas executive coaching firm.

Nevertheless, that’s still a sizable number, and more than 470 CEOs left the top job in the first five months of the year. What’s more, it’s not just a matter of numbers. Many recent departures have involved high-profile executives and brands, such as Howard Schultz leaving Starbucks or Jeffrey Immelt leaving GE—moves that garner a lot of attention.

The reasons for recent CEO turnover have varied. Some came as the result of careful long-term planning, such as Muhtar Kent’s departure from Coca-Cola. Others were more abrupt
responses to performance-related pressures, as with the departures of Klaus Kleinfeld and
Mario Longhi from Arconic and U.S. Steel, respectively. Others stemmed from the need to
adapt to rapid technological shifts—witness Mark Fields’s leaving Ford as the company resets it focus to the world of self-driving cars. And some followed age-old patterns, as with Stefan Larsson’s departure from Ralph Lauren due to differences with the iconic founder.

This all underscores just how challenging the CEO’s role continues to be. It’s a job that can
be unforgiving, and executives often find that they need to adjust to relentless change—either by adapting or by moving on.

For more information on all of these transitions, visit


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