The 2004 study addressed the question of whether companies had reached a tipping point, in which power in the corporation had permanently shifted away from chief executives. The answer was that companies were past that tipping point. More than 14 percent of CEOs at the largest 2,500 public companies in the world left office in 2004. Of that group of departing CEOs, nearly a third were forced from office for performance-related reasons or because of disagreements with their boards. This represented a 300 percent increase over 1995.
Chief executives, this study found, were being treated more in the manner to which other executives and middle managers had long become accustomed: Hit your numbers or hit the road. Endanger or embarrass the company, and you’re history. This shift was evident in North America even before the turn of the millennium. In Europe and Asia, by contrast, the shift was relatively new. This transformation in company leadership meant that would-be chief executives required skill sets strikingly different from those needed by earlier CEOs.