Jack of all, master of all? CEO generalist experience and firm performance

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Jack of all, master of all? CEO generalist experience and firm performance

Although more generalist CEOs command a significant pay premium and are known for initiating a variety of strategic changes, whether their sought-after experience is associated with higher firm performance remains unexplored. Drawing on instrumental leadership and domain expertise frameworks, we propose a negative association between more generalist CEO experience (across different industries or firms) and firm performance, but one that is alleviated by longer tenure. Based on a sample of 16,158 CEO-firm-year observations from 2243 firms, we find support for a negative association between more generalist CEO experience and firm performance, which is alleviated with longer CEO tenure. These preliminary results have implications for the increasingly common practice of seeking to hire more generalist CEOs in an effort to improve firm performance.

Citation: 
The Leadership Quarterly Volume 30, Issue 3, June 2019, Pages 320-334

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