Voluntary transition of the CEO: owner CEOs' sense of self before, during and after transition.Front Psychol. 2015; 6:1633.FP
This inductive study explores how former business owner chief executive officers (CEOs) experience sense of self during voluntary separation and transition from their company. Our inquiry engaged 16 CEOs who ran companies ranging in size from 15 to 500 employees as they detailed their stories of walking away from roles as owner CEOs. We developed a coding scheme to analyze themes manifested in the narratives. We also analyzed the former CEOs' narratives using a stage and valence model depicting both the continuum of the separation experience and the characterization of each stage as a positive or negative state of being. The diverse yet synchronous stories resulted in three implications for current owner CEOs, professionals who advise CEOs, and future research on CEOs' careers. First, the CEOs often failed to allocate sufficient time and effort to prepare for an identity shift following the sale of their company or transition into retirement. Second, the CEOs experienced a diminished sense of self and dissatisfaction with the exit event. Third, the majority of the CEOs demonstrated an ability to work through the adverse and unanticipated states of being into a positive sense of self.