November 15, 2005 08:00 ET

Who Me, CEO? Why Senior Executives Don't Want to Pursue the Corner Office; New Burson-Marsteller Survey Reports 54 Percent of Global Business Influentials Choose Not to Be CEO

NEW YORK--(CCNMatthews - Nov 15, 2005) -

Business leaders continue to approach the CEO position with apprehension, according to a new global study conducted by Burson-Marsteller with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The 2005 CEO Capital™ research reveals that executives are now thinking twice about the corner office, with 54 percent of global business influentials reporting they would not want to be CEO if given the choice.

The highest levels of CEO disillusionment are found in North America and Europe (64 percent and 60 percent would decline a CEO offer, respectively). Asia/Pacific business influentials (51 percent) are divided about seeking the CEO role and Latin Americans are the least negative - only 27 percent do not want to be CEO.

Why Not Be CEO?

For the first time, global business influentials were asked their reasons for wanting or not wanting to be CEO. The overriding factor in choosing not to be CEO is the absence of a positive work/life balance. More than six out of 10 respondents (64 percent) cite this reason as the leading obstacle to pursuing the corner office. Other barriers cited are the tyranny of quarterly earnings, persistent stress and intense public scrutiny. Interestingly, global business influentials are less likely to cite the actual pressures of running a business - regulatory oversight, cost-cutting, talent development, stakeholder demands and critical media - as leading reasons for turning down the CEO position if offered.

"CEOs today are increasingly challenged by time zones, global markets, unpredictable crises and an expanding portfolio of stakeholders demanding attention," said Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross, Burson-Marsteller's Chief Knowledge & Research Officer Worldwide and the study's architect. "Not until companies train the next generation of leaders to better balance work/life pressures will executives clamor for the top job."

So Why Be CEO?

Although generous compensation, perks and prestige dominate headlines worldwide, they are among the least compelling reasons given by global business influentials for wanting to be CEO. The top three reasons for wanting to be CEO are the opportunity for complex problem-solving (56 percent), ability to have a personal impact on the business (43 percent) and satisfaction of having their ideas implemented (36 percent). A sizeable number of global business influentials also cite helping a company go from "good to great" (33 percent) and building a company that lasts (26 percent) as primary reasons for seeking the corner office.

"All businesses today are in dire need of talented, ethical and credible leaders. The reluctance of many senior executives to accept the top slot will continue to impact efforts to restore overall trust in companies across the globe," said Patrick Ford, Burson-Marsteller's Global Corporate/Financial Practice Chair. "The demand for leaders continues to expand. Continued success in global commerce lies in the willingness of upcoming qualified CEOs to take calculated risks, roll up their sleeves and execute on the details."

Burson-Marsteller's new research highlights the need to have willing executives in line to succeed outgoing CEOs. As we witness a rapidly rising CEO departure rate (a Fortune 1000 CEO departs every two business days, www.ceogo.com), the need has never been greater to build the next generation of global leaders.

About the 2005 CEO Capital Study

Burson-Marsteller has been conducting landmark research on CEO and corporate reputation since 1997 (www.ceogo.com). The new 2005 CEO Capital study was conducted in 65 countries online with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) between May and July 2005. It was completed by 685 business influentials -- CEOs, senior executives, financial analysts, business media and government officials. Roughly one-third of respondents came from North America (26 percent), Europe (32 percent), Asia-Pacific (32 percent) and one-tenth from Latin America (10 percent). Participants were drawn from a cross-section of 19 industries.

About Burson-Marsteller

Burson-Marsteller (www.burson-marsteller.com), established in 1953, is a leading global public relations and public affairs firm. It provides clients with strategic thinking and program execution across a full range of public relations, public affairs, advertising, and web-related services. The firm's seamless worldwide network consists of 44 wholly-owned offices and 49 affiliate offices, together operating in 57 countries across six continents. Burson-Marsteller is a part of Young & Rubicam Brands, a subsidiary of WPP Group plc (NASDQ: WPPGY), one of the world's leading communications services networks.

About the Economist Intelligence Unit

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) (www.eiu.com) is the world leader in global business intelligence. It is the business-to-business arm of The Economist Group, which publishes The Economist newspaper. The EIU provides geopolitical, economic and business analysis on more than 200 countries, as well as strategic intelligence on key industries and management practices. With over 300 full-time professionals in 40 offices around the world, supported by a global network of more than 700 contributing analysts, the EIU is widely known for its unparalleled coverage of major and emerging markets.

Editor's Note - High resolution charts representing this research are available.

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