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Barbara Kellerman

Barbara Kellerman

Barbara Kellerman is on the faculty of at the Harvard Kennedy School and the author, most recently, of Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, and Why It Matters and Followership: How Followers are Creating Change and Changing Leaders.

CEO Term Limits

In short, yes. Too many companies - and too many countries - tolerate leaders who hang on too long. The reasons for clinging to power vary, of course. And there are certainly some cases in which single individuals continue to do good work, even after a decade or more at the top. But there is evidence that performance tends to deteriorate over time, after ten, twelve years or so of holding the reins. And, equally, there is evidence that if and when performance does deteriorate, excising bad leadership becomes the more difficult the longer and more deeply it's entrenched.

For a variety of reasons, leaders are more vulnerable now than they ever were before, and they are therefore less likely than they were to outlast the opposition. Still, it makes good sense for companies - and countries - to consider institutionalizing a system in which no single individual is allowed to remain top dog for longer than the rough equivalent of two presidential terms. In this Anne Mulcahy provides a model, as she did in so many other ways. She knew when to get in -- and as importantly though more infrequently, she knew when to get out.

By Barbara Kellerman

 |  May 26, 2009; 10:38 AM ET
Category:  Succession Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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