CEO retirements signal growing market maturity August0802

A grouping of recent CEO retirements came with no drama and are a sign of stability in the market. Just don't think of it as boring.

Nazzic Keene’s plan to retire as CEO of Science Applications International Corp. has me thinking about the state of leadership in the government market and how it is changing.

Because if you haven’t noticed, she is not the only CEO of a large government contractor to retire in the last 10 months.

Here’s who else is gone:

These five people led their companies through tremendous changes. including major acquisitions. In the case of ManTech, they were acquired themselves. That group of five moved their companies into new markets and added new capabilities.

Because of their leadership, none of those companies are the same as when those leaders took over.

These are CEOs whose track records show that they embraced change as part of the culture of their companies. Their departures are just one more development to manage through.

We saw a similar grouping of CEO retirements in 2014 at Lockheed Martin, Computer Sciences Corp. (now part of General Dynamics), CACI International, AT&T and Accenture. Those occurred over about an 18-month period.

The most recent batch of retirements stands out because those leadership changes were not traumatic. They have been thoughtfully and methodically carried out. Each of these companies had succession plans in place and a process for picking the next CEO in the least disruptive way.

In 2014 I wrote about how leadership changes were a sign of growing maturity in the market. Back then I called the government IT market a teenager maturity-wise.

This newest round of retirements have me thinking the market may have reached reached adulthood. As important as these CEOs have been to their companies’ success, their retirements also show a recognition that the CEO is just one reason for the success.

This is the kind of maturity we should expect in the market and particularly among large companies. The small and mid-tier companies are dominated by entrepreneurs. That’s where we still see CEOs being synonymous with their company and inseparable from the business.

Stability is good for business. For the largest businesses in the market, they literally have a vested interest in maintaining that stability.

But let’s not equate stability and maturity with boring. If you’ve talked to any of these five CEOs, you wouldn't be bored by the conversation.