CEOs Are Quitting In Record Numbers

When the only constant is change, the American labor force has witnessed a seismic shift reshaping corporate leadership’s very fabric.

The COVID-19 pandemic, a catalyst for unprecedented upheaval, has affected millions of workers and triggered a remarkable phenomenon: the mass departure of chief executive officers from their thrones.

CEOs Stepping Down In Droves

Throughout 2021 and 2022, the U.S. witnessed an unparalleled wave of job resignations, peaking at a 3.0% quit rate in late 2021, as revealed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This mass movement dubbed the “Great Resignation,” ¹ reflected a profound shift in worker sentiment and a reevaluation of career priorities.

Fast forward to 2023, and a new narrative emerges with over 1,500 CEOs stepping down ², the highest recorded in the first ten months of any year since 2002.

This leadership vacuum, spanning sectors from tech to healthcare, is driven by delayed retirements, burnout, performance concerns, and the allure of better opportunities.

As companies navigated the pandemic’s turbulence, CEOs bore the brunt of unprecedented challenges, now compounded by geopolitical tensions, persistent inflation, and recession fears.

It’s a transformative period in corporate America, signaling a deep-seated quest for renewal and direction at the highest echelons of power.

The Tech & Healthcare Shuffle

Two sectors feeling the brunt of these departures are technology and healthcare, industries that experienced meteoric demand during the pandemic.

As the world adjusts to a new normal, these sectors are recalibrating, bringing fresh leadership to navigate the post-pandemic landscape. This isn’t just about changing faces; it’s about shifting strategies and surviving in an era of relentless innovation and competition.

The High Cost of Leadership Change

Replacing a CEO is more than just filling a vacant seat; it’s costly and complex. The financial stakes are astronomical, with the average CEO of S&P 500 companies earning around $16.7 million annually ³.

But the costs go beyond dollars and cents.

The search for new leadership consumes time, resources, and the collective energy of the organization. It’s a period of vulnerability when the very soul of a company is often laid bare and reshaped.

The First 100 Days

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Image Credit: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock.

For incoming CEOs, the first 100 days ⁴ are pivotal, serving as the foundation for their tenure. It’s a period for deep thinking, research, and setting a clear vision.

They must come rested and ready to tackle the complexities of their new role, understanding the company’s current state and the competitive landscape. It’s more than charting a course for profitability and growth; it’s about connecting with and understanding the workforce, stakeholders, and customers.

CEOs must listen actively, resolve conflicts promptly, and build a cross-disciplinary team to drive growth. This time is crucial for establishing trust, setting a positive tone, and demonstrating their commitment to the company’s future and the well-being of its employees.

The Future of Leadership

As we gaze into the future, one thing is clear: the trend of high CEO turnover is likely to persist.

Economic conditions, social pressures, and the relentless pace of change will continue to shape the leadership landscape. The CEOs who thrive will be those who can navigate these turbulent waters with foresight, agility, and a deep understanding of the human element of business.

In a world where uncertainty is the only certainty, the great CEO exodus reflects our times. It’s a story of transformation, challenge, and the relentless quest for a better way forward.

One thing is sure: the future of leadership will be anything but business as usual.


Martha A. Lavallie
Martha A. Lavallie
Author & Editor | + posts

Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.