CEOs Critical in Succession Planning, Study Finds

Last Updated Apr 15, 2009 9:24 AM EDT

  • The Find: CEOs play a key role in succession planning according to interviews with sitting executives, and there are plenty of things that can do to assist the transition to new leadership.
  • The Source: A study by the Hay Group.
The Takeaway: Sure the board chooses the CEO, but when the Hay Group sat down for interviews with nearly 20 sitting CEOs in late 2008, they found that outgoing CEOs still play a huge role in how smoothly a transition to new leadership goes. The interviews also revealed that there are plenty of things CEOs can to do to aid - or hamper - the search for a successor, including:
  • Develop internal candidates: Nearly all felt it was incumbent on the CEO to ensure that there was an internal candidate pool developed for the board to consider so as not to be forced to go outside the company... most felt that the learning curve for an outside recruit can be steep.
  • Manage 'horse race' dynamics: When asked what worried them the most about CEO succession, most CEOs expressed concerns about creating a 'horse race' dynamic and losing valuable executives who were ultimately unsuccessful in securing the top job.
  • Provide the board with meaningful exposure to candidates: "Attending board meetings, one-on-one meetings with board members, events and having board members visit CEO candidates at their worksites are all ways to give board members more exposure to the possible future CEO," says study author Jeff Kirschner.
  • Don't delay - five years out is not too soon to start: Interviewees emphasized the importance of starting early in terms of CEO succession planning â€" at least three to five years prior to the anticipation of the actual change in leadership.
For a complete write up of the research, check out the March/April issue of Chief Executive magazine.

(Image of relay hand-off by Philo, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.