The Way it was: 1981.

 
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Overstaying One's Self as a CEO

One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a corporation is to drift into becoming a one-man company, to start dealing with the world primarily through the perceptions of one person. Over the years, I have seen situations like that in other organizations and I have concluded that there is such a thing as overstaying one's self as a CEO. A few years ago, when I had been president for more than 15 years and CEO for about 10, I became concerned about overstaying myself at InterNorth. I had been knocking on the doors of the financial market, our customers, and the trade associations for so long that I could almost feel myself extending beyond what I considered an appropriate time. Thus, long before my prospective retirement date, and even though I would remain as chairman, I began thinking about succession to the CEO job.

Regardless of age, there is suddenly a point when you feel you have lived through an era, when you've worked -- or feel as if you've worked -- seven days a week. And you decide that maybe you only want to work six days a week. The zest is still there, but not to the extent that it once was. I went to each board member individually--this was not done at an official meeting, of course -- and bit by bit alluded to what I had in mind. Their first reaction was, "You've got to be kidding," or "You're much too young to think that way. But I told them that from my perspective, age was not the major factor; I had been in the job long enough.

Willis Strauss, chairman and chief policy officer of InterNorth Inc., a $3 billion energy company in Omaha, Neb., in "Why InterNorth Has a Chief Policy Officer" [Summer 1981].

I Did What I Did...

I don't make decisions based on what I think my board thinks of them. If the decisions are good, they're good. If they're bad, I convince the board that I did the right thing.

Jerry Neely, chairman and CEO of energy equipment company Smith International, in an interview with DIRECTORS & BOARDS contributing editor Warren Bennis, in "Keeping the Entrepreneurial Spirit Alive" [Fall 1981].

An Early Fan of Audit Committees

About two years ago the SEC requested that the major exchanges require listed companies to appoint an audit committee composed entirely of outside directors. Reluctant to become an arm of the government, the American Stock Exchange appointed a blue-ribbon committee of prominent attorneys, accountants, and chief executive officers of listed companies to study the issue. The committee came back with a report supporting the requirement of an audit committee, but one with exemptive authority and liberal membership standards (only a majority...

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