Transition at the Top

by Kurt Motamedi, William Browne



This article analyzes the backgrounds of CEOs who are earning $100,000 and more per year in compensations. Background is defined as the type of work that a CEO was engaged in prior to the appointment. Trends by background and age are analyzed to identify changes which have taken place during the past six years. Other features examined are the age at which the CEO was appointed to hold the position and the characteristics of the ten firms with the highest compensated CEO for years 1971, 1973, 1975, and 1976. This study points to a number of transitions in the top CEO's backgrounds, age, and compensation. As the environment is becoming more complex and turbulent, the backgrounds of the CEOs are changing. The trends are toward backgrounds geared to deal with the emerging environmental complexities: resource shortages, economic stagnation, and general increased uncertainty. The average age of CEOs is decreasing, with many younger CEOs assuming the leading role of large firms. As CEOs are getting younger, values at the top are also changing. There tends to be less emphasis on compensation but more on challenge of the job, personal responsibility, and quality of life.

California Management Review

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Published at Berkeley Haas for more than sixty years, California Management Review seeks to share knowledge that challenges convention and shows a better way of doing business.

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