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What CEO Resignations Reveal


What CEO resignations revealCEO’s often experience overwhelming pressure to perform. Unfortunately, many CEO’s are misaligned with corporate objectives. Some make poor or even fatal decisions under stress. Others allow their character flaws to spin out of control.

Too many CEO’s sabotage their own best efforts and fail to bring their best selves to the workplace. They can experience untold embarrassment, despair, and untimely resignations. So what do sudden CEO resignations reveal?

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Recent CEO Resignations

CEO Resignations 2022

On December 5, 2022, Salesforce announced that Slack CEO and co-founder, Stewart Butterfield, would depart the company in January. Slack was acquired by Salesforce in 2021 for $27 billion. Lidiane Jones, the executive VP and GM for digital experiences clouds at Salesforce, will assume Butterfield’s role. The company stated “Stewart is an incredible leader who created an amazing, beloved company in Slack. He has helped lead the successful integration of Slack into Salesforce and today Slack is woven into the Salesforce Customer 360 platform”

On November 30, 2022, a year after being promoted to Salesforce’s co-CEO role, Bret Taylor stated that he would depart from the company in January 2023. Taylor was the president and COO before being promoted and played an instrumental role in guiding the $27 billion Slack acquisition in 2020, Marc Benioff, the co-founder of Salesforce, will be the sole CEO when Taylor leaves. Benioff had reportedly been frustrated with Taylor’s focus on his former role as Twitter’s chairman. In 2018, Keith Block took the reigns as co-CEO and held the role until 2020.

On November 20, 2022, Bob Chapek, CEO of Disney was fired due to disappointment of his management of the company and a 30% share drop. The  upheaval comes 11 months after former CEO Robert Iger left Disney, and days after Chapek said he would cost cuts and institute a hiring freeze and rollout layoffs in the company. Disney’s theme park business had recently experienced higher revenue, but results did not meet analyst forecasts.  Chapek has be replaced by Robert Iger who has been tasked with finding a strategic direction and a successor.

On October 29, 2022  Twitter CEO, Parag Agrawal, was fired by Elon Musk after Musk took over Twitter in late October.  Agrawal served as CEO of the social media platform for a little less than one year, taking over. from co-founder Jack Dorsey in November 2021.Agrawal has previously held the role as the company’s Chief Technical Officer..

On June 29, 2022, Bath & Beyond announced that CEO, Mark Tritton will step down after the company’s shares had lost 22% of its value  Billionaire activist investor Ryan Cohen had previously criticized his $27 million compensation over the last two years as well as his failure to reverse market share losses. Cohen had stated that “Tritton should recognize that chief executives who are awarded outsized compensation and seek frequent publicity also invite much higher expectations when it comes to growth and shareholder value creation.”

Bed Bath & Beyond’s head of the strategy committee and independent director, Sue Gove will serve as the interim CEO.

On June 28, 2022, Pinterest Inc. stated that 39-year old CEO Ben Silbermann would step down. Google commerce executive Bill Ready will take over the helm. Silbermann has served as Pinterest’s CEO since he co-founded the company in 2010. Silbermann will serve as executive chairman and keep his board seat. Pinterest now has more than 430 million monthly active users.

Silbermann shared “In our next chapter, we are focused on helping Pinners buy, try and act on all the great ideas they see… Bill is a great leader for this transition.”

On June 22, 2022, Jose Mauro Coelho, the CEO of Brazil’s state-run oil giant Petrobras stepped down. His resignation occurred amidst political pressure from lawmakers and President Jair Bolsonaro due to rising fuel prices. Coelho served as CEO for 40 days. Director Fernando Borges will serve as interim CEO until a Bolsonaro appointee receives approval.

On June 21, 2022, DocuSign announced that CEO Dan Springer is stepping down immediately. Springer took the helm in 2017 and the company went public in 2018. Springer’s resignation comes after weak first quarter results where earnings failed to meet analyst expectations. The company did not explain why Springer is stepping down. The statement provided was “has agreed to step aside.”  Mary Agnes (Maggie) Wilderotter, the Chairman of the Board, will serve as the interim CEO.

Springer stated “Helping to build DocuSign and lead a world-class team over the last five years has been the work of my life,” and  “What we’ve accomplished will help the company take advantage of a massive market opportunity for future growth.”

On June 7, 2022,The RealReal company press release stated that effective immediately, founder and CEO Julie Wainwright is stepping down as CEO, chairperson and member of the board of directors. Wainwright will serve as an advisor to the company until the end of 2022.

SEC filings reveal that the “decision to resign was not due to any disagreements with the Company.” The company’s COO, Rati Sahi Levesque, and CFO, Robert Julian will act as co-interim chief executive officers until a new CEO is secured. The RealReal is unprofitable.

On June 3, 2022 in a regulatory filing, Amazon announced that Dave Clark, CEO of Amazon’s global consumer business will step down on July 1. During more than two decades at Amazon, Clark was responsible for building Amazon’s logistics warehouse and delivery network. The initiatives expedited shipping efficiency and helped Amazon to monopolize the online retail market.

Clark tweeted “I’ve had an incredible time at Amazon but it’s time for me to build again. It’s what drives me.”

On May 19, 2022, Under Armour announced that president and CEO, Patrik Frisk, will be stepping down on June 1. COO Colin Browne will serve as president and CEO until a successor is appointed. The company did not provide the reason for Frisk’s departure.

Frisk drove Under Armour’s turnaround during the Covid-19 pandemic. He positioned the foot ware as a premium brand and limited discounts to retailers. The company is experiencing supply chain issues and offered a discouraging 2023 forecast.

On May 3. 2022, of Biogen Inc. announced the resignation of , CEO, Michel Vounatsos. Medicare had recently rejected coverage of Biogen’s new Alzheimer’s disease drug, Aduhelm. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initially approved the drug for patients with mild cognitive impairment from Alzheimer’s disease. Later two congressional committees investigated the FDA’s approval process. They claimed that the FDA did not deal with concerns about Aduhelm’s clinical benefits or price. The FDA then launched an internal review of the approval process for the controversial drug. Medicare has now limited coverage to patients in clinical trials.

Vounatsos will continue at CEO and remain on the board until a successor is selected. The company is reducing about $1 billion in costs annually.

On April 21, 2022, Gap Inc. announced the abrupt departure of Old Navy division’s CEO, Nancy Green after two years at the helm. She will leave by the end of the week. Gap stated that the company’s largest brand, Old Navy, had experienced execution challenges. They were offering limited inventory due to supply chain disruption.

The company’s CEO, Sonia Syngal, will work closely with the Old Navy team while seeking Green’s successor. Syngal stated that the retailer is looking for someone with the “operational rigor and creative vision to execute on the brand’s unique value proposition”.

On March 28, 2022, 77-year old FedEx Corp. founder Frederick W. Smith tendered his resignation as CEO, effective June 1. Smith will take on the role of executive chairman. He will focus on board governance, innovation, sustainability, and public policy. During his tenure, Smith grew the package delivery company from less than $1 billion annual revenue in 1982 to more than $83 billion in 2021.

Over the past year, FedEx shares have dropped around 18 percent compared with a 28 percent rise in United Parcel Service (UPS) shares. FedEx shares have lagged behind the S&P 500 and UPS during the past five years. The company’s president and COO, Raj Subramaniam will serve as both president and CEO.  The planned succession was delayed due to the pandemic.

On March 16, 2022, 61-year old Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson announced that he will step down on April 1. Johnson has served as CEO for the past five years and has been with the company for 13 years. Johnson will serve as an employee and special consultant to the company and Board of Directors until September.

Johnson stated “A year ago, I signaled to the Board that as the global pandemic neared an end, I would be considering retirement from Starbucks”. “I feel this is a natural bookend to my 13 years with the company.”

The Board of Directors expects to have a new leader in place by the fall. In the meanwhile, Starbuck’s founder and former CEO, Howard Schultz, will take over the helm on an interim basis. He will rejoin the company’s Board of Directors.

On March 1, 2022, Toyota CEO and president Akio Toyoda resigned from the automotive behemoth. Toyoda is the great-grandson of Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota. Akio Toyoda took the reigns of the family business as CEO in 1984. He succeeded a string of non-family CEOs who implemented unsuccessful initiatives.

Toyoda successfully oversaw the 2009-2010 recalls which restored good will with American consumers. But his leadership was riddled with internal conflict.

According to Toyoda, “Toyota builds some of the most reliable and unobtrusive cars in the world, You think I wanted that to be my legacy? Hell no, I didn’t. I advocated for switching exclusively to V8 engines with no catalytic converters and glass-pack mufflers. CAFE standards? I’ll tell you what you can do with your CAFE standards, President Obammunist. Needless to say, I got a lot of pushback. This is what happens when you try to innovate.”

On February 8, 2022, Peloton CEO and co-founder John Foley announced his unanticipated resignation as CEO. Peloton activist investor Blackwells Capital had provided a blistering assessment of the company with calls for resignations of Foley and CFO, Jill Woodworth. The former CFO at Spotify and Netflix, Barry McCarthy will join the board and serve as CEO and President. Foley will remain as executive chairman.

In May 2021, the company recalled its treadmill after reporting a child’s death. Peloton’s stock has fallen 80 percent from its peak. The company is currently dealing with several lawsuits. 2800 jobs will be cut. Peloton is open to offers from potential suitors.

On February 2, 2022, 56-year old CNN boss Jeff Zucker tendered his resignation after nine years at the helm. Zucker’s memo to CNN employees stated that he had failed to disclose his consensual romantic relationship with a high-ranking CNN colleague during the network’s investigation of CNN’s anchor, Chris Cuomo.

Zucker wanted to remain in his role temporarily to ensure a smooth transition. But the network had other plans. Under Zucker’s leadership, CNN has recently been beleaguered by embarrassing sex scandals and a smaller audience.

CEO Resignations 2021

On December 7, 2021, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker announced his resignation. Parker had served as an airline CEO for 20 years. The company’s president, Robert Isom, will take over on March 31. Parker will serve as Chairman of the carrier’s board. “It likely would have happened sooner, but the global pandemic — and the devastating impact it had on our industry — delayed those plans,” Parker stated in a note to his employees.

He skillfully navigated the company through the 9/11 crisis. During the Covid pandemic, Parker helped secure $54 billion in federal aid to cover the airline’s payroll expenses.

On November 29, 2021, Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down. Dorsey will serve on the social media company’s board of directors until the 2022 stockholders’ meeting. The company’s Chief Technical Officer, Parag Agrawal will take over the CEO role. Agrawal has been with the company for 10 years. Bret Taylor will serve as chairman of the board. Dorsey currently serves as the CEO of the digital payments company, Square. He has strongly embraced Bitcoin.

On November 9, 2021, Wynn Resorts announced that 45-year old CEO Matt Maddox will step down in January 2022. His departure comes while the company is working to renew its Macau gaming license and before his contract expires. Maddox has a non-compete agreement with the company until December 2022. The board investigated Maddox last year after an anonymous hotline allegation. He was found innocent of wrongdoing.

On November 1, 2021, Barclays Bank American CEO Jes Stanley resigned. Preliminary conclusions from the investigation into his relationship with disgraced financier and convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein had been inconclusive. The Board and Staley agreed that he will step down as group CEO and director. The bank said Staley plans to contest the results of the inquiry. Staley became CEO of the bank in 2015. He earned almost $5.5 million in 2020.

On August 19, 2021, Johnson & Johnson revealed that 61-year old CEO, Alex Gorsky will be replaced by deputy, Joaquin Duato on January 3, 2022. Gorsky led the company through the innovative introduction of the covid-19 vaccine. He oversaw tough opioid and baby powder legal battles and manufacturing obstacles.

Under Gorsky’s tenure, the company achieved remarkable growth. Gorsky stated that family health issues partially led to his decision to step down.  He will continue to serve as the executive chairman of the company.

On July 29, 2021, Proctor & Gamble announced that CEO, David Taylor will step down on November 1, after six years at the helm. Taylor will continue to serve as P & G’s executive chairman.

During his tenure as CEO, Taylor restored sales. He steered the company through rising costs due to pandemic-related supply chain challenges. Taylor also fought an activist investor. He will be succeeded by Jon Moeller, the former CFO. Moeller currently serves as the COO.

On April 27, 2021, Doug Lawler, Cheseapeake Energy CEO resigned, effective April 30. According to Mike Wichterich, Interim CEO, during his eight years at the company, Lawler “guided Chesapeake through a difficult period, repositioned Chesapeake’s portfolio of assets, and built a corporate culture which will serve as a platform for future success.”

On March 12, 2021, Simon Hu, CEO of Ant Group Co. unexpectedly resigned for personal reasons. His resignation came while the financial technology company tackled Chinese government demands to revamp its business. Chinese regulators had required the digital payments company to withdraw its IPO months before. Hu also stepped down as an executive director on Ant Group’s board.

On February 2, 2021, founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, announced his resignation as the company’s chief executive. Bezos will continue as executive chair. In his note to employees, Bezos wrote “As Exec Chair I will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions.”

The unexpected news came as the company sales exceeded $100 billion. Amazon began as an online bookseller. It is now a dominant player in cloud computing, groceries, entertainment and electronics.

On January 25, 2021, Leon Black, CEO of Apollo Global Management Inc. announced his resignation. An independent review found that Black paid Jeffrey Epstein $158 million for his advice on tax and estate planning and related services between 2012 and 2017. The review concluded that Black was not involved in Epstein’s criminal activities

On January 20, 2021, Michael Pack, CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media including Voice of America resigned at President Biden’s request, two hours after being sworn in. Often accused for partisanship, Pack pointed fingers at journalists for anti-Trump bias. He initiated investigations into bias claims and tried to sack senior “deep state” executives.

Concerned about infiltration by foreign spies, Pack did not permit visa extensions for the Agency’s foreign national employees. In his departure letter, Pack stated that his resignation was an act of partisanship. He warned of future politicization of the agency.

On January 13, 2021, Bob Swan, Intel CEO resigned effective February 15. Under his tenure, Intel lost market share against competitors AMD, Samsung, and TSMC. Additionally, in the fall, Apple announced that it will begin using its own chips in Mac computers.

Swan had served as CEO since January 2019 after acting as interim CEO for seven months. He was known for encouraging employees to openly confront internal problems.

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CEO Resignations 2020

On October 4, 2020, John Donahoe, Nike CEO resigned after a 20-second video emerged on social media of a man in poor shape running sluggishly in Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 running shoes.

Donahoe stated “Please know I am deeply sorry for the humiliating lack of athleticism on display in this video. No one in Nike gear should ever be breathing heavily and running all hunched over with their arms on their hips like that—never mind the bumbling, lethargic pace. This is not what Nike is about, and I have submitted my resignation.” Donahoe previously served as the CEO of eBay for 10 years.

On September 20, 2020, Trevor Milton, Nikolo founder and CEO announced his resignation following accusations by Hindenburg Research on September 11 that he lied about the company’s technology. According to a Twitter post, Milton’s resignation was at the request of the company’s board of supervisors. Milton is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for misleading investors.

On September 11, 2020, Rio Tinto CEO, Jean-Sébastien Jacques resigned under pressure from investors due to the company’s destruction of a 46,000-year-old sacred Indigenous heritage site in Juukan Gorge in Western Australia in order to expand an iron ore mine. The destruction provoked outrage from the Aboriginal community, politicians, and important stakeholders.

On September 10, 2020, Citigroup Chief Executive Michael Corbat resigned, Under his tenure, the company grew to almost $20 billion in 2019 from just $7 billion in 2012. Corbat’s early retirement came as federal regulators prepared a formal rebuke to the bank for failing to upgrade its obsolete security technology systems.

On August 26, 2020, TikTok CEO, Kevin Mayer, announced his resignation. Mayer had served as chairman of the Direct-to-Consumer and International Division at Walt Disney prior to being hired as CEO of TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance. The former Disney executive had worked at TikTok for just over 100 days.

As President Donald Trump’s executive order banned TikTok in the U.S. unless it was sold to another company, Mayer was unable to resolve the conflict or reassure American legislators about TikTok’s Chinese ownership.

On August 3, 2020, Ford CEO Jim Hackett resigned after the company’s turnaround plan did not satisfy investors. Hackett will stay on as CEO until October 1. During his three-year tenure as CEO, he realigned the company’s portfolio. Among his accomplishments, Hackett phased out most sedans in order to emphasize SUVs and trucks. He also pioneered Ford’s entry into the smart vehicle space with the electric Mustang Mach-E.

On July 27, 2020, Walgreens’ CEO Stefano Pessina announced that he will step down and become executive chairman when the company finds his replacement. In a letter dated July 23, Pessina told board members that he has considered stepping down “for some time, but for the reasons the Board knows, the time was not right to do so.” Pessina has more than 16% ownership of the company.

On July 21, 2020, Jide Zeitlin resigned as the chairman and chief executive of Tapestry Inc., the parent company of Coach and Kate Spade following a board investigation into his personal conduct. According to The Wall Street Journal, a woman accused Zeitlin of posing as a photographer and coerced her into romantic relationship around a decade ago. Zeitlin confirmed parts of her accusation in a statement to the Journal.

On July 11, 2020, CEO of tech company Solid8, Michael Lofthouse resigned. He was filmed berating an Asian-American family at a birthday party in a restaurant on July 4. Lofthouse informed The San Francisco Chronicle that he registered in an anti-racist program and “once again begun my journey back to sobriety.”

On June 9, 2020, Greg Glassman, CrossFit Chief Executive resigned after a week of controversy about his reactions to the nationwide protests against police brutality sparked by George Floyd’s death. Reebok, brand affiliates, and athletes cut ties with the company after a provocative tweet from Glassman. He later told affiliate gym owners that he wasn’t mourning George Floyd’s death in a Zoom meeting.

On April 24, 2020, Randall Stephenson, Chief Executive of AT&T announced his resignation on June 30, 2020.  He will continue as Chairman of the media and telecommunications giant until January 2021.  Stephenson had previously been under fire for questionable M&A decisions and operations; the acquisitions of DirectTV for $67 billion and Time Warner for $104 billion, and the unsuccessful takeover of T-Mobile.

On April 4, 2020, Sergio Rivera, CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment resigned only five months into his tenure. According to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Rivera cited disagreement with the board of directors’ decision-making, His predecessor, Gustavo  Antorcha, cited a similar reason for his departure in September 2019.

On February 25, 2020, Robert Iger, Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company from 2005 to 2020 announced his immediate resignation as the company’s chief executive. He will continue his role as executive chairman until end the end of 2021. It appears Iger doesn’t want to be involved in daily operations any longer. Wondering why?

On February 6, Tidjane Thiam, CEO of Credit Suisse resigned after a private investigator spied on a former executive who had joined another bank. An internal investigation cleared Thiam of misconduct. However, the scandal impacted the credibility of his leadership.

On February 1, Adam Bierman, CEO and co-founder of MedMen, resigned after downsizing 40 percent of its workforce at the end of 2019. He resided over a sharp reduction in the cannabis company’s share price over the past year.

On January 28, Mandy Ginsberg, Match Group CEO, owner of dating apps such as Tinder and OkCupid, announced that she’s stepping down after 14 years with the company. She claimed that there were personal reasons for her departure.

CEO Resignations 2019

On December 23, 2019 Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg was fired after a turbulent period in which there were two deadly 737 Max crashes, delays and setbacks.  After the first crash, Muilenburg indicated that the pilots were at fault.

On November 3, 2019, McDonald’s Corporation announced that CEO Steve Easterbrook would step down as a result of his consensual relationship with an employee that violated company policy. Easterbrook lied to investigators prior to his dismissal.

McDonald’s chairman, Enrique Hernandez Jr., told employees that the company wanted to hold Mr. Easterbrook “accountable for his lies and misconduct, including the way in which he exploited his position as C.E.O.,” and the settlement achieved that goal.  On December 16, 2021 the company announced that Easterbrook had returned $105 million in cash and stock.

On September 25, 2019, Juul CEO Kevin Burns resigned. On September 9, the FDA banned marketing to young users and various flavored-vaping products. Some states had already followed suit. Burns’ simply took too long to acknowledge the potential health risks of the company’s vaping products

On September 24, 2019,  WeWork parent, We Company, stated that its controversial founder, Adam Neumann, would step down as CEO amid reports of his predilection for marijuana and over-the-top grandiosity. Investors and others had already raised concerns about the company’s governance and business model.

On March 28, 2019,  Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan resigned due to the widespread sales practices scandal based on opening millions of unauthorized consumer accounts.

On Jan. 23,  2019, Carlos Ghosn resigned as chairman and CEO of Renault, the largest French car maker, on accusations of financial misconduct. Ghosn had served as the CEO of Michelin North America, chairman of AvtoVAZ, chairman and former CEO of Nissan, and chairman of Mitsubishi Motors.

On January 8, 2019, Herbalife’s chief executive Richard Goudis resigned over unspecified comments he made prior to taking the helm contrary to the company’s expense-related policies and business practices. According to the news release, his departure was not due to any issues regarding the company’s financial reporting.

CEO Resignations 2018

On October 2, 2018, Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo CEO stepped down after 25 years with the company. During her 12 year tenure as the CEO, the company experienced 80 percent sales growth. Her exit occurred during concerns about overhauling the U.S. beverage division either by spinning off bottling operations or splitting up the company.

On September 10, 2018, Les Moonves, Chairman, President and CEO of US media giant CBS resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct.

On July 17, 2018, Texas Instruments Chief Executive Brian Crutcher resigned due to violations of the company’s code of conduct, less than two months after taking control of the company. The semiconductor company stated that “the violations are related to personal behavior that is not consistent with our ethics and core values.”

On June 15, 2018, Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes resigned after Holmes and Theranos were charged with fraudulently raising in excess of $700 million from investors. Holmes made numerous misleading statements about the firm’s portable blood analyzer.

On June 1, 2018, Samsonite CEO Ramesh Tainwala resigned after allegations that he padded his resume by falsifying his academic credentials.

On January 27, 2018, Steve Wynn, CEO of Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Finance Chair of the Republican National Committee resigned after dozens of accusations of rape and sexual harassment.

The Optimal Thinking CEO

The Optimal Thinking CEO is committed to optimization. The Optimal Thinking mindset equips you to:

    • be your best
    • bring out the best in others
    • best achieve the mission of your company.

Optimal Thinking CEO’s understand that when the cost of failure is high, optimism is the wrong strategy. Leading with our best selves, we take the most constructive actions to achieve the best outcomes while we are best prepared for unfavorable outcomes.

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11 Responses to “What CEO Resignations Reveal”

  1. Carl K says:

    Interesting summary of high profile CEO resignations. Thanks.

  2. Bill W says:

    So many examples of mismanagement of power. Thanks.

  3. Mandy says:

    Sounds like that storm Trump was talking about hit pretty hard…These guys say they resigned but more likely they got fired.

  4. Kim Waters says:

    Rosalene, thanks for compiling this list. These leaders do not deserve to be at the helm and remind us to as you say, stay true to ourselves.

  5. Doreen K says:

    How about Carlos Ghosn being charged for the 4th time. Let’s see if power and privilege win over justice this time.

  6. Martin Bolton says:

    Staying true to myself in the face of tough competition is a challenge I struggle with. This post reminds me to make the right decisions not just for the moment but for the long run. Interesting post and very interesting website.

  7. Shelley T says:

    I’ve worked for several questionable CEOs who don’t make the headlines. Too many get away with too much. This article is a reminder that integrity is the first, second, third quality that leaders must maintain. Thanks for taking the time to do the research.

  8. Brian Jackson says:

    Just saw the documentary about Elizabeth Holmes and her Theranos caper. Glad you included her. Great post. Keep them coming.

  9. John Carpin says:

    As a fortune 1000 C-level professional, I have worked for great CEO’s and others who I did not admire. This post tells it as it is. Thanks.

  10. Harold J says:

    Great article. You get to the heart of leadership, both personal and business. If you don’t put your best self in charge, you pay the price.

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