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When CEOs Step Up To Fail

In recent years, leaders at such high-profile companies as Xerox, Procter & ; Gamble, Lucent, Coca-Cola and Mattel have flamed out early in their tenures. Why did such promising and previously successful individuals fail so quickly in the CEO role? And why is such failure happening today with relatively high frequency?

The individuals in charge bear some of the responsibility, of course. But the authors' research also uncovered other major forces at play. First is the impact of the predecessor CEO's actions on his or her successor's performance. While outgoing CEOs do not intend to contribute to the failure of their successors, their personal needs and actions can lay the groundwork for derailment. A second force is often the succession process itself. Once again, the outgoing CEO may be responsible, having failed to prepare a successor adequately; and the board is also often guilty of lack of oversight. A third reason for failure by new CEOs is their often narrow expertise and inability to set a proper context as a leader. The authors explore these issues and then offer advice to outgoing CEOs, directors and incoming leaders that may help them avoid the troubles that some companies have faced in making a leadership transition.

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