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Will your CEO be next? Leaders are feeling burned out and are joining the Great Resignation in record numbers.

Business Insider logo Business Insider 7/5/2022 htan@insider.com (Huileng Tan,Ebony Flake)
New research from behavioral science company MindGym shows 70% of leaders feel burned out as they struggle to align, motivate and tune into their workforces. fizkes/Getty Images © Provided by Business Insider New research from behavioral science company MindGym shows 70% of leaders feel burned out as they struggle to align, motivate and tune into their workforces. fizkes/Getty Images
  • CEO turnover rose 29% in the first quarter, the highest total since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Market volatility and growing social pressures were exhausting for CEOs.
  • Companies are confident about their prospects this year and are changing up C-suite leadership.

It's not just frontline employees: CEOs, too, are joining The Great Resignation, a study from global business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found.

According to the study, CEO turnover rose 29% in the first quarter of the year — the highest quarterly total since the onset of the pandemic, when 441 CEO exits were recorded. Mounting tensions, experts say, is the primary cause. 

CEO exodus 

In the past two years, CEOs have led through a pandemic, followed by a mass exodus of employees, an abrupt economic downturn, pressures to take a stand on social issues, and supply-chain issues resulting, in part, from Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

Increased pressures have pushed a record number of CEOs to join The Great Resignation.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, DocuSign CEO Dan Springer, and Red Lobster CEO Kelli Valade are among hundreds of chief executives who resigned this year. 


Video: Great Resignation Continues As 1 in 5 Say They Plan To Change Jobs This Year (Money Talks News)

The trend shows no signs of slowing. 

In May, Emily Weiss stepped down as CEO of the e-commerce site Glossier. In early June, Ryan Peterson announced his impending resignation as chief executive with logistics company Flexport in a tweet thread. Ryan Williams, CEO of Cadre, followed suit in late June with the announcement of his resignation from the real-estate investment platform, which he founded in 2014.

In November, a review of nearly 1,000 companies by the US recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles found 103 had named new CEOs. The study analyzed information from large, publicly traded firms in two dozen countries including the US, China, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Mexico, and Singapore. The 103 CEO appointments in the first half of 2021 more than doubled the 49 seen in the second half of last year.

Deloitte Consulting CEO Dan Helfrich, in an earlier interview with Insider, said that many Fortune 500 CEOs admit that they are more burned out than ever. "They're being forced to deal with their own mental health," Helfrich said.

New research from behavioral science company MindGym shows 70% of leaders feel burnt out as they struggle to align, motivate and tune into their workforces.

A new breed of C-suite executives

The changes in companies' top ranks aren't all driven by resignations. However, the resulting reshuffle has compressed a decade's worth of change into months, Amber Wiseley, Intel's vice president of global benefits, said in a January interview with Insider

Of the new CEOs appointed in the first half of 2021, 13% were women — doubling from 6% the year before. New CEOs were also less likely to be US citizens and to have experience in various industries.

The world changed since the departing leaders took office. "It is perhaps no surprise that CEOs appointed over the past year differ significantly from the CEOs they replaced," according to the Heidrick & Struggles study.

Octavius Black, CEO and cofounder of MindGym, says to stop the bleed of CEOs joining the Great Resignation, new executives should be adept in the skills that matter most today: judgment, decision-making, learning to think like a leader, and learning to align, motivate, and enable people remotely at scale.

This story was originally published in November 2021.

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