As a rule, the worst CEOs are found in academia and massive governmental bureaucracies virtually immune to innovation as they are under little or no pressure to initiate or embrace positive change. Any organization whose funding is essentially guaranteed or heavily subsidized by taxpayers and is not subject to real performance metrics and genuine accountability is almost always a magnet for weak leaders.

The longer the leader has only worked in these organizations in their career, the worse they will be. A great indicator is CEOs are absolutely never recruited from these organizations to lead outside of these type of organizations (e.g. there’s not a single successful major company in America today now headed by a former college president or career federal agency head).

Our best CEOs are more likely to be found where the challenges are.  They lead smaller non-profits, companies, and governmental organizations operating in a difficult and dynamic environment of high service demand, strong customer expectations, and limited resources. This is where you will meet your most capable leaders.  For them, continuous change to ensure optimal performance is required, accountability is real, and the margin for major unforced errors is small.


From the Teacher: Leadership Lessons with Dr. Saviak is a weekly column with the esteemed Joseph C. Saviak, Ph.D., J.D., M.A., M.S., Management Consulting & Leadership Training.