Number of Executives Who Want to Become CEO Reaches All-Time Low

The number of executives who don't want to be CEO has doubled since 2001 (60 percent today versus 27 percent in 2001), according to new research by global communications consultancy Burson-Marsteller. Only about one-third (35 percent) say they want to be CEO (versus 47 percent in 2001). The study was conducted among Fortune 1000 executives by WirthlinWorldwide.

“Due to shortened CEO tenure and intense media scrutiny, executives are more wary of the corner office," said Patrick Ford, chair of Burson-Marsteller's Corporate/Financial Practice. "Executives know that CEO decisions and actions are examined 24 hours-a-day." Ford added, "The economy depends on continuing to rebuild trust in the corner office among our next generation of leaders."

Not surprisingly, the research found that executives who had worked at a company that had undergone a crisis were more likely to decline the CEO post than executives who had never worked at a crisis-ridden company (64 percent versus 52 percent).

Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross, Burson-Marsteller's chief knowledge & research officer and the study's architect, remarked, "Executives with first-hand experience at a crisis-ridden company know how crises can affect a company's share price, employee morale and the ability to attract talented people. They also know the toll that a crisis takes on a company's CEO and leadership team."

Rising Confidence in CEOs

The good news for CEOs and would-be CEOs, however, is that the vast majority of executives have confidence in today's CEOs (87 percent), a 10 percent increase year-over-year (77 percent in 2003).

"This is a great vote of confidence for CEOs," stated Dr. Gaines-Ross. "Executives believe that the vast majority of CEOs are honest, hardworking individuals. The growing confidence in today's CEOs indicates that the corporate crises of yesteryear might just be fading in people's minds."

The findings are the first set of results released from Burson-Marsteller's Executive Omnibus (2004), an adjunct to the larger Building CEO Capital(TM) research series conducted in 2003. Additional results will be released on reputation recovery.

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