Recently I was asked if I had any new observations about retiring CEOs since writing Secrets of a Graceful Exit two years ago. And I have seen three district trends recently.
First, baby boomers really are retiring from CEO jobs; but they are often hanging in there as consultants – either to their own association or for other organizations. They think it’s going to be easy to start consulting but they are not marketing any particular expertise. Basically, they don’t want to be out of the association community, they want something to do and they are probably not going to measure their success by how much money they are earning. I see this as a retreading instead of retiring.
Second, we are also seeing some people from the corporate side think that being an association CEO looks good and “retire” – or try to – to the not-for-profit world, thinking it will be easier. We’ve always believed the skill set is the same in both worlds but it’s a lot harder to exercise those skills with mission foremost, rather than profit. Throw in volunteers vs. employees who can be rewarded with paychecks and the disillusionment can set in fast.
Finally, we have also seen an increase in organization with boards that are ready for their exec to retire and the exec isn’t ready. This is not a good situation and in some cases, the exec is in some sort of denial that it’s time to go. Some boards don’t seem to understand that it is THEIR choice to retain an exec. The dynamics are unclear other than associations are risk averse and change in top leadership is risky. And of course, sometimes the volunteer leadership which changes regularly doesn’t really know they have that option. And where the volunteer leadership is there forever, they like the way things are going as well.
What has been your observation about retiring (or not) CEOs?