Help Wanted – CEO!
For the most part, the internal pipeline is broken from accelerated, mass defections at the top. (In other words, the internal candidates who are willing to pitch the gigs aren't really experienced or qualified enough.) And the external pipeline – attractive C-level execs from non-financial companies – don't want to get anywhere near an industry with curbs on compensation, increasing government intervention, and a broken business model.
One wonders whether this is a phenomenom exclusive to the financial sector. Certainly the issue is most pronounced in that sector, but the c-suite increasingly resembles political office these days, doesn't it? As in, "Who the hell wants that job?" With most U.S. industries under attack - many in fundamental ways that parallel what's happened in banking – it's not a time for the faint of heart.
If you want to rise to the c-suite – or if you're there already and thinking about bailing – here is what to consider. It's easy to lead when times are frothy. A robust economy will cover errors in judgement, obscure lazy actions, and protect perpetrators from their own bad behavior. A poor economy demands a low tolerance to mistakes, strategic discipline, focus, courage and a willingness to make hard decisions. What we have now is a very poor economy (so italicize all the requirements above) and a fundamental reset in many industries. That reset requires a whole additional level of enterprise, imagination and nerve. The same old ways won't work, so experience and execution alone won't cut it.
Finally, if you are recruiting to hire c-level execs, you may well discover that despite it being a "buyer's market," it might be very difficult to find the right talent for these times. After all, you will be looking for extraordinary individuals (not the cast-offs of your competitors) and based on the current circumstances, they may not be looking for you.