Giving Up the CEO Seat

by Jeffrey Hollender

IT HAPPENED THREE YEARS ago, but my memory of the moment I knew I had to step down as CEO is indelible. On the morning after a long business trip to the West Coast, I was returning to the Burlington, Vermont, headquarters of the company I had cofounded, Seventh Generation. As I walked through our offices, with their view of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks’ distant peaks, I resumed my daily ritual of seeking out associates with whom I didn’t regularly connect. But this time I was struck by a startling realization: People were clicking away at their computers, huddling in conference rooms, or heading out for meetings—and I had no idea what they were working on. The experience unnerved me.

As the chief ...

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