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Celebrity CEO’s

Literature from the late 90’s often gave the impression that large company CEO’s are some sort of pop-stars. The illustrious former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, was almost the personification of such a celebrity CEO. In the years he ruled over General Electric, he used the up-or-out principle. This means that the top 10% best managers got promoted each year and the bottom 10% got fired. His memoires became bestsellers a few years back. He ruled with an iron fist and General Electric has been the emperor of the stock markets for years. Because of this kind of examples a sort of worshipping of the CEO came to be, like the Anglo-Saxon model.

At the same time there is increasingly more study on the impact CEO’s really have on a company. The picture this paints is that a CEO can only make a difference for a certain percentage. These percentages vary between 5% and 20%. This means: whatever the CEO does or doesn’t do, in the results the difference in the bottom line is between 5 and 20 percent. The CEO has fallen off his pedestal. The trust in ‘top men’ and leadership is heavily damaged. Society wants incorruptible, transparent and modest CEO’s who realise that the company doesn’t revolve around them, but that they, by the grace of the company, may temporary fulfil this role. Top men and women who don’t mind justifying to society and realise that the company can exist thanks to society and customers. A lesson in humility.

Maybe these are waves. We shall see, if and when we gain some trust again, if we will return to the leaders who will be almost just as famous as Madonna and Wesley Sneijder in this world.


By Paul Donkers

"my purpose is to help improve strategy execution, to create high performing teams and coach for effective business leaders"

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