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Interview: Paul C Reilly

With growing media scrutiny and increasing pressure for results, who’d be a CEO? A unique perspective comes from Paul C Reilly, chairman ...

By Stuart Crainer . 01 June 2004

With growing media scrutiny and increasing pressure for results, who’d be a CEO? A unique perspective comes from Paul C Reilly, chairman and CEO of the world’s leading recruitment firm, Korn/Ferry International.


Interview Paul C Reilly

Before taking over in 2001, Reilly was CEO of KPMG International. Having led two of the world’s most successful service firms, Reilly shares his thoughts about being a CEO and the state of the executive job market. Interview by Stuart Crainer.

How long should a CEO remain in the job?

It depends on the company, what’s required and the CEO’s ability to transform himself or herself along with the business and keep ahead. Effectiveness depends on the skills the company needs at a given time. Different sized companies need people with different scale experiences. Then there are specific situations, such as turnarounds, which require specific abilities. But for every rule there is someone like Bill Gates or John Chambers who have taken a start-up and turned it into one of the world’s biggest companies.

When it comes to changing CEOs, sometimes it is simply time for a change. There’s an observation about political leaders that they get too much credit when things go well and too much blame when things go wrong and I think that also applies to CEOs.

What do you regard as the key performance measures for a CEO?

There is a lot of focus on the short-term numbers. I look at market numbers and at developing a strategy that is long-term. I could do a lot of things to improve short-term performance but are they strategic and sustainable? The key is to execute effectively in the short term while creating a long-term strategy and setting targets. There needs to be a balanced scorecard.

What about the relationship between the CEO and the board?

The board’s job is ever more crucial. Managing the board wasn’t a challenge for me because in a professional services mindset you share information. Everything is shared with the board. Meetings are very open.

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