Executive Leadership Well-being Survey

CEO failures and unexpected departures are happening at an unprecedented rate. Nearly two thirds (64%) of CEOs don’t make it to their fourth anniversary and 40% don’t last 18 months. Forbes reported that, among the world’s top companies, a single unplanned CEO departure costs $1.8 billion more in shareholder value alone than a planned CEO departure. A PwC CEO success study showed that CEO dismissals for ethical lapses increased 36% over the past five years from 3.9% of all successions between 2007 and 2011 to 5.3% between 2012 and 2016 and noted, “Boards of directors, institutional investors, governments and the media are holding chief executive officers to a far higher level of accountability for ethical lapses than in the past.” This data was captured before the #MeToo movement, so the numbers are likely higher. With this comes the unexpected appointment of a growing number of new CEOs to these roles without significant notice or advanced planning and preparation.

There is a dearth of information around CEO/senior manager stress and well-being compared to the focus on employees. This imbalance is important because CEOs/senior managers have an incredible impact on large populations. Some companies have 100k+ employees.  As noted by Dr. Eileen McNeely, while Harvard and others have conducted significant research on workplace well-being, the focus has been on employee well-being and little has been done at the C-suite level of an organization.  The Executive Leadership Well-being Survey was developed together with longtime SHINE member Johnson & Johnson, an early SHINE thought partner who worked with us to create the original Worker Well-being Survey. 

This research will contribute to the generalized knowledge of how CEOs and senior managers typically experience stress and well-being in their lives as a way determine similarities and differences between them and other leaders, and provide a body of knowledge to develop and implement supportive measures for future economic and societal benefits. Given the impact of CEO/senior manager well-being, behavior and decisions on the rest of the organization, this research will be important in the following ways:

  • Identify the most prevalent sources of stress for CEOs and senior management and the associated impact on their health, well-being, and personal and leadership performance
  • Create awareness among CEOs about the impact of their own well-being on personal and organizational performance both in and outside of the workplace.
  • Identify specific areas of opportunity to inform potential solution development.

For more information about this study and if you’re a senior leader of a Fortune 1000 or Forbes 2000 company and want to participate in the survey please contact Karoline at kbarwin@hsph.harvard.edu

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