Signs Your CEO has Jumped the Shark

Last Updated Sep 3, 2008 9:47 AM EDT

CEOs, like football running backs and winners of American Idol, tend toward short careers. In the case of chief execs, it's five years or less in office.

So how do you know when your Top Dog is heading down the back nine of her or his career? In the Times Online, Harvard Business School professor John Quelch lists 10 signs to watch for in How to Spot a Chief Executive Who is Going Off the Rails.

Here are three indications from Quelch that things are not all they should be in the Corner Office:

  1. "The chief executive builds a mansion, buys a winery, starts a vintage-car collection or, in other ways, flaunts his success, displaying excessive self-confidence and becoming more interested in things other than the business.
  2. "The chief executive launches his own blog. This usually makes him appear inauthentic rather than cool. And a blog is no substitute for doing face-to-face meetings with the troops. Even worse: the chief blogs under a pseudonym to boost his company's share price at the expense of competitors.
  3. "The chief executive is collecting awards for community service from the local Rotary Club and the industry trade association. This usually means he believes his contributions have already been made and his career has peaked or, even worse, his peers believe this to be the case."
Any of these sound familiar in your organization? When did you know your CEO had jumped the shark?
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.