Getting Fired As CEO


As you read the title of this blog, you may be saying to yourself: “I’m the owner of the business, I don’t have to worry.”

Or, “My company is successful, the board of directors is happy, I have nothing to worry about.”


But, a record number of CEO’s have been front page news in 2019 for all of the wrong reasons.

High profile dismissals and resignations at some of the worlds top companies are putting all business leaders on notice.

Not to mention all of the CEO’s who left quietly, without the headlines, for falsified resumes, improper relationships and other behaviors that are unacceptable in today’s business world.



What are some of the lessons top be learned from some of the headlines? 

That the best CEO’s aren’t modeling their management styles on outdated ideas about acting “in charge”.

They’re mastering internal and external communications and creating more inclusive and positive corporate cultures.

And they’re open to guidance and accepting accountability.



Let’s look at some of the top issues that led to CEO firings.

1. No Awareness Of Blind Spots
McDonald’s fired CEO Steve Esterbook over a relationship with an employee. The leading semiconductor company in the world, Intel, fired CEO Brian Krzanich for a “consensual” relationship with an employee.

When we hear stories like that, a common response is: “What was he thinking?

And the sad fact is that many CEO’s don’t really think through those decisions. Many of them fail to realize that they have significant blind spots that are affecting their work in a negative way.

They let personal matters cloud their business judgement. Or, they’re so enamored with the power that comes from running a company that that they slip into CEO stereotypes thinking they can do whatever they want and rely on their position to mitigate the consequences.

Speaking of being enamored with power, there is the CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, John Schnatter, who was asked to resign due to using a racial slur on a company conference call.

At the time he said: “I can’t talk like that even if it’s confidential and it’s behind closed doors.”   “I did it. And I own it. And I’m sorry. And I’m sick about it, frankly.”   Now, he’s back, claiming the board used race to steal his company.

It’s the thing about blind spots, it’s not so much what you say or do, but how you think.


2. A Lack Of Transparency

Not that long ago, CEO Kevin Plank and Under Armor looked poised to grab a huge share of the sportswear market.

But, trying to keep up with competitors led to a shareholder lawsuit because investors didn’t believe the company was being open about its financial position.

To top it off, there were lingering rumors about Plank’s relationship with an MSNBC anchor.

In the end, the ax fell on jobs, share prices and the CEO.

During times of crisis, secrecy and misinformation only make bad situations worse.

Rumors take on lives of their own and bending the truth can break key relationships. If you wait too long to admit there’s a problem, it may be too late to fix it.


3. Accountability

Accountability doesn’t just mean yelling “Stop!” when the company is swerving off the road.

It means making a thousand small decisions that could be even tougher.

Like moving on from a popular employee that isn’t cutting it.  Or admitting that a product or service isn’t selling any more.  Or standing up in front of the entire company during a crisis, accepting responsibility and explaining how you’re going to fix what’s broken.  And insisting that everyone in the management team follows the same rules.

You may believe that your company doesn’t have these problems.

After all, you may not have shareholders or you’re not going to appear in any headlines.

But you do have a bank on which you may depend.  You have employees and are subject to scrutiny on social media.  And every company has clients or customers.

Any CEO’s who let harmful cultures and glaring blind spots ruin their companies, may find that bad business is the least of their problems.


Revitalization Partners specializes in improving the operational and financial results of companies and providing hands-on expertise in virtually every circumstance, with a focus on small and mid-market organizations. Whether your requirement is Interim Management, a Business Assessment, Revitalization and Reengineering or Receivership/Bankruptcy Support, we focus on giving you the best resolution in the fastest time with the highest possible return.

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