Being a political leader in a democracy is an inherently tenuous role – elections are won or lost, mandates secured or whittled away. In business, leadership has required an ongoing effort to maintain support; but in recent decades, CEOs have started to experience a similar level of volatility that their political counterparts have long faced. Between 2000 and 2010, the average tenure of a Fortune 500 CEO fell from 9.5 years to 3.5 years – a period of time almost mirroring a single American presidential term. In 2011, nearly 15% of the world’s top CEOs left their jobs, with the turnover rate being highest among the 250 largest companies.
These trends need to be located within the wider context of the politicization of business, which means many companies are now often under the same harsh and unforgiving lens as political candidates. Brands are now public property, with assertive consumers feeling entitled to deem what businesses can and cannot do. As debates over executive remuneration and corporate taxes show, it’s not enough for something to be simply legal or commercially correct: it must also be judged as moral and fair.