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by SixFigureStart | January 15, 2009

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Much has been said about what company leaders could do and should do in the current economic climate. CEOs themselves have written eloquently across various media outlets about what their role should be as companies big and small trim their human capital and try to sustain themselves and their firms through a recession that is already more than a year old. Vault.com?s CEO Erik Sorenson, in a previous post accessible here on the VaultingBlog, a blog that discusses issues C-level executives face on a daily basis, suggests taking this opportunity to think about changing careers and trying new fields as executives get pushed out during consolidations.

While their words of wisdom ring true for many laid off executives today who seek reentry in various industries in the private sector, the New Year seems to have brought with it a new target to blame at public companies. The CEO. Six chief execs have been ousted from public companies in the last 10 days. With shareholders and boards increasingly losing confidence in the men at the helm and the Dow?s singsong continuing throughout the holiday season and into 2009, the dust from the blame game has begun to settle on the very top.

It all began with last week?s announcement of Tyson Foods? Richard ?Dick? Bond resigning ?in his best interests as well as that of the company.?  This was followed by a series of announcements by Borders, Orbitz, Chico?s and Bebe Stores. Borders? CEO George Jones led the pack exiting with a comfortable package including 18 months? salary, a bonus and 75 percent of his retention bonus according to the company?s SEC filing. The same week, two more CEOs left: Steven Barnhart of Orbitz and Scott Edmonds of Chico?s Stores. And this week Bebe Stores and Seagate Technology were the latest to shed veteran leadership.  The Wall Street Journal reports on these developments in detail bringing up the question: do leaner times make us questions our leaders more?

Of course, none of these executives got ?laid off? in the way 524,000 of Americans have, with most of them receiving handsome retirement (read: severance) packages. And it has only been two-and-a-half weeks into 2009. As we welcome a new presidency next week, it seems the American economy is rethinking its leadership across industries as well. While President-elect Barack Obama prepares to steer the country out of a recession with his promised $825 billion Stimulus package, is it also a time for change in the top leadership across the board?

Readers, what do you think? Do tough times beget new leadership? For better or for worse? We?d love to hear from you so please leave a comment. Or join our Job Search Message Board and join an active discussion as Vault members navigate their careers.

--Posted by Aman Singh, Vault Editor

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