The CEO Magazine - ANZ
Career Work Perspective Leader Strength Image Credit: The CEO Magazine - ANZ
Career Work Perspective Leader Strength Image Credit: The CEO Magazine - ANZ

Is It Time To Step Down?

Is CEO self-demotion the ultimate example of ‘quit while you’re ahead’? Lisa Smyth learns when is the right time to go, on your terms, in your way.

Lisa Smyth

Blood, sweat and tears, that’s what it has taken – everything you have. You have built your business up from nothing to a successful, thriving company. Or, you have climbed up through the ranks and now have a seat at the top. You have worked harder for this than for anything you have ever worked for before. There is absolutely no way you are giving it all up, right?

In 2000, Bill Gates shocked the business world when he stepped down as CEO of Microsoft to become Chief Software Architect. While he remained Microsoft’s Chairman until 2014, Gates’ departure from running day-to-day operations at the height of Microsoft’s success was concerning, and confusing, to many – why did he do it? And, importantly, should you do it? And if you should, when? 


Paul McCann, the 47-year-old Managing Partner of Grant Thornton, Ireland’s fifth largest audit and accounting firm, confronted the same confusion when he announced in November 2017 that he would not be seeking a third term.

“Lots of people told me to go for another round since it’s all gone so well, but I figured I should quit while I was ahead, and allow someone with new and interesting ideas to take the helm. A good and profitable business should have plenty of great leaders,” reports McCann who oversaw the business grow from 30 partners and 420 staff to 48 partners and 1,200 staff during his six-year tenure. He will be returning to client work at Grant Thornton as head of the firm’s financial services advisory unit.

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