How many direct reports?

Published: March 20, 2012

This article by Strategy&’s Gary Neilson and Harvard Business School Associate Professor Julie Wulf, published in the April 2012 issue of the Harvard Business Review, looks at the logical evolution of a CEO’s span of control and offers advice for managers as they progress in their careers.

If senior executives are feeling ever-increasing pressure on their time—and few would suggest that’s not the case—why would they add more to their plates? It seems counterintuitive, but according to our research into C-level roles over the past two decades, the CEO’s average span of control, measured by the number of direct reports, has doubled, rising from about five in the mid-1980s to almost 10 in the mid-2000s. The leap in the chief executive’s purview is all the more remarkable when you consider that companies today are vastly more complex, globally dispersed, and strictly scrutinized than those of previous generations.

C-level span of control diagnostic tool

Senior leader, always pressed for time, are nonetheless broadening their span of control.

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How many direct reports?

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