Execs are getting better at climbing the greasy pole

The time most chief executives take to rise from their first job to the top of the corporate totem pole is falling, according to new research reported by The Economist.com.

University researchers in Spain and the US compared records on the chief executives of S&P 500 and FTSEurofirst 300 companies and found their average career length to the chief executive’s chair in 2001 was 24 years, down from 28 years in 1980.

Chief executives are also moving through fewer jobs on the way to the top – an average of five pre-CEO jobs in 2001, down from six in 1980 – and are spending less time in each of those jobs.

And, interestingly, chief executives who stay with one company their entire careers tend to get to the top more quickly, with “lifers” taking an average of 22 years, compared to the average 26 years taken by “hoppers”.

The research also found the life of a chief executive in Europe tends to be much more short and brutal than their US counterparts. The average tenure of a European chief executive is seven years, compared to nine in the US, and 37% of chief executives in Europe in 2001 left because they were fired, 10% more than the US.



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