“The buck stops here” said the now-famous sign on President Harry S. Truman’s Oval Office desk.
Nearly 70 years later, that clarion cry for accountability from top leadership persists in corporate America — particularly at publicly traded companies where CEOs feet are (or at least should be) held to the fire.
Consider Walmart (WMT): Embroiled in a Mexican bribery scandal and reporting lower revenue and comp sales for the most recent quarter, the retail giant “encouraged” CEO Mike Duke toward the exit this week. Duke, who leaves in February, is handing the reins to Doug McMillon, head of Walmart International.
Duke’s departure illustrates how high the stakes are for CEOs when their publicly traded companies stumble. And nowhere is leadership scrutiny as intense as among the Dow Jones Industrial Average components, where high-powered (and highly compensated) CEOs must adeptly steer their massive ships into profitable sea lanes while avoiding unseen reefs or sudden storms.
Several Dow CEOs are tacking against the wind now, but the three below are facing perfect storms that could — and perhaps even should — force them to follow Walmart’s Duke to the exit: