With President Trump ousting former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as U.S. Secretary of State, the question now is whether a return to the business world is in his future, and if so, where?
Once the dust settles and Tillerson is able to take stock of his options, there will be no shortage of lucrative executive and/or board positions out there waiting for him, according to professor of leadership at Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management Jeff Cunningham.
“He will have offers to join boards, and he could literally name his companies, and in the case of a board like Amazon’s, might take it if offered,” Cunningham told Chief Executive. “While there will be tempting CEO roles, once someone sails with the big ships of state, they lose the taste for the world of commerce, so that would be unlikely. More appealing is either a university presidency or heading a global organization such as the World Bank or a major foundation.”
“Tillerson has a rich set of opportunities should he wish to get back into the fray.” – Jeff Cunningham
Tillerson was shown the door at the State Department after a rocky 14-month stint in Trump’s administration. He often found himself on the wrong end of Trump’s Twitter rants, and rumors of his ouster began swirling after he reportedly called Trump a “moron” in October of last year. For a businessman who rose to such powerful and successful heights, Tillerson never found his footing working under Trump.
“[Tillerson] was acclaimed as one of the most astute global business leaders in the history of the energy business, perhaps business in general. Therefore, when President Trump summarily fired him – without warning according to the State Department’s own spokesperson – it is an act of humiliation and even treachery,” Cunningham says. “Spending some time on the therapist’s couch is what I have in mind for Secretary Tillerson. After a post-Trumpian recovery, his regrets may seem enormous, but the experience and worldwide respect he achieved will outlast a disappointing final act. Tillerson has a rich set of opportunities should he wish to get back into the fray.”
And while his first foray into national politics didn’t end well, that doesn’t mean that Tillerson wouldn’t take another crack at it.
“He could swing his bat towards an opposition Republican candidate like Mitt Romney, Senator Ted Cruz, or Governor John Kasich of Ohio, and try for a second act on the world stage.” Cunningham says. “Whatever Tillerson chooses to do, you can bet he will be busy writing his memoirs first.”