Why do external CEOs struggle? New study points to bad buzz


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Typically new CEOs who’re employed externally carry out brilliantly, turning corporations into money cows. And extra typically, they don’t: CEOs employed from exterior seem to succeed less than internally employed candidates, and their outcomes are less predictable, although the info is debated. Firms lately are hiring rather a lot of external CEOs. So how to decide a profitable one?

Students are on the case. A trio of European coauthors from the College of Zurich, Frankfurt College of Finance and Administration, and Bocconi College studied 1,275 new CEOs in 882 U.S. firms over a 13-year interval, tracing their efficiency, in addition to their expertise, and surrounding basic sentiment. It’s tough to quantify sentiment, so the researchers tracked worker rankings, 27,000 press articles, analysts’ purchase/promote/maintain suggestions, and executives’ gross sales of their very own firm’s inventory. They discovered that externally employed CEOs are probably to wrestle not as a result of they’re outsiders, however for 2 extra particular causes:

  • Bad match: Exterior CEOs are extra probably to have mismatching prior expertise, coming from companies of sizes, ages, and specialties that differ from the brand new agency, which altogether can apply poorly to the brand new firm.
  • Bad buzz: External CEOs can face extra damaging sentiment, and lack the inner social networks and politicking connections to fight it. This hampers their effectiveness.

Destructive sentiment is a psychological bias that causes individuals to understand extra damaging behaviors, after which dwell on them. In organizations, it could swiftly escalate to very actual management impairments, akin to much less help, extreme scrutiny, and resistance amongst staff. It’s impactful: The researchers discovered that damaging sentiment is extra predictive of CEO’s low efficiency than size and breadth of expertise or match.


Different research have found outcomes that equally point out {that a} CEO’s origin can mix with a handful of different traits to decrease efficiency.

To keep away from this downward spiral, the researchers recommend that new CEOs offset damaging sentiment earlier than it mushrooms with techniques like PR offensives, growing social relationships within the agency earlier than beginning, and restructuring groups. Firms themselves additionally want to handle the reactions of everybody from board members to inventory analysts.

The upside: External CEOs with related expertise who handle to engender constructive sentiment do very properly long run. The research seems this month within the Academy of Administration Journal.