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Continuity at the Top

Popes, presidents, CEOs and prime ministers — which organization has had the least turnover in leadership?

March 18, 2013

Popes, presidents, CEOs and prime ministers — which organization has had the least turnover in leadership?

For any large institution — whether a private-sector company, a government or even a world religion — stability and continuity are important prerequisites for success. And a key ingredient for such stability is a low rate of turnover at the very top.

We wonder: Since 1892, which of the following institutions has seen the fewest changes in leadership?

[toggle title_open=”A. Catholic Church is not correct.” title_closed=”A. Catholic Church”]

Pope Francis I — formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio — was elected by the papal conclave on March 13, 2013. The 266th reigning pope and head of the Roman Catholic Church, Francis is only the eleventh pontiff since 1892.

His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, served as pontiff for just eight years. His relatively short papacy followed the nearly 27-year reign of Pope John Paul II. When Benedict abdicated the papacy in February 2013, he was just the first pope to resign the office in 598 years. In 1415, Gregory XII was forced to resign only nine years into his papacy.

Still, the Catholic Church does not have the lowest turnover rate among these five institutions.[/toggle]

[toggle title_open=”B. IBM is not correct.” title_closed=”B. IBM”]

IBM has only been in existence since June 1911, when the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation was incorporated in Endicott, New York. It adopted the name International Business Machines in 1924.

Virginia M. "Ginni" Rometty, who joined the company as a systems engineer in 1981, became IBM’s ninth chief executive in the company’s 101-year history on January 1, 2012. She is the first woman to serve in that post.[/toggle]

[toggle title_open=”C. U.S. Presidency is not correct.” title_closed=”C. U.S. Presidency”]

Barack Obama is the 22nd person to hold the office of President of the United States since 1892. By comparison, John Roberts — sworn in as Chief Justice of the United States on September 29, 2005 — is only the tenth person to hold that position since 1892.

While the president is limited to two four-year terms, the chief justice, like all Supreme Court justices, is tenured for life.[/toggle]

[toggle title_open=”D. General Electric is correct.” title_closed=”D. General Electric”]

Leaders at General Electric (GE) are in fact a rarer breed than U.S. presidents, Supreme Court chief justices and popes. Jeffrey Immelt, the current chairman and CEO, is only the ninth person to hold the company’s top post since it was founded in 1892. Immelt began his tenure on September 7, 2001.

GE is also the only company that has been continuously listed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average since the index was first launched in 1896.[/toggle]

[toggle title_open=”British government is not correct.” title_closed=”E. British government”]

Since 1892, there have been a total of 24 different people, all men except one, who have held the post of British Prime Minister. Attesting to the helter-skelter of politics, several of them — including Winston Churchill — actually served in that post multiple times.

The turnover among British royals has been far less than that, with only six monarchs since 1892. Among them, Queen Elizabeth II, the current monarch, marked her 61st anniversary on the throne on February 6, 2013.[/toggle]

To listen to The Globalist’s Stephan Richter discuss this quiz with Marketplace Morning Report host Jeremey Hobson, click here to open a pop-up media player.



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