The CEO of 2030

We started with the observation that CEO succession is a pivotal moment for every organization. It is difficult both for boards that need to make high-impact personnel decisions, often with limited information, and for CEO candidates who are expected to drive highly challenging mandates in organizations they are often not familiar with. CEO succession is both high impact and nerve wracking, and if it is to be successful, it must be carefully planned and executed. We have presented ideas, frameworks, and practical tools that have the potential to improve CEO succession practices, on the side of both the board and the new CEO.

So what should be the priorities for boards and new CEOs who want to improve the likelihood of success? Let’s take a look forward into areas that are relatively underdeveloped and could become the future qualifiers in CEO succession.

While each succession has its own unique traits and requirements, four areas require more substantive development across all new appointments:

  • • implementing best practice, tools, and frameworks;
  • • being genuinely open minded toward a more diverse set of candidates;
  • • looking beyond linear career paths for the candidates of tomorrow; and
  • • utilizing novel technolog)' and analytical processes.

Implementing best practice

Much of what we have presented is about using systematic processes and practices. Despite the hard work that boards put into the selection of the right CEO and the long hours CEOs spend driving the companies they have been selected to lead, we see failures, both personal and at the company level, resulting in billions lost in all industries. This raises the question of the true potential of the tools and frameworks we have presented throughout this book. Oft'the record, many of the chairs, CEOs, executives, and headhunters we talked to admitted that the real selection process still continues to be ad hoc and independent of talent development processes. Most importantly, it is still often based on personal opinions and the charisma of the candidate and has a limited connection to their real capabilities or potential. As one chair told us in confidence, “You have the talent development and succession plans but when you are really looking for a new CEO it is suddenly a different ball game.” As long as the board and top management fail to take talent development, succession planning, and CEO selection seriously, the results of CEO successions will continue to be a game of hit and miss.

CEOs who take on their first CEO position will also benefit from applying a more systematic approach. After all, becoming a CEO is meant to crown a typically already above-average career. A large share of people who make it to CEO are ambitious and confident leaders who have mostly experienced success in their careers. Often, these leaders think they have developed an approach to management that holds the secret to success — that they have the Midas touch. Yet becoming CEO is a big step up in responsibility, creates challenges that cannot be anticipated based on their prior positions, and tends to make the candidate much more visible to the external world than ever before. CEOs are well advised to have the humility to consider and draw upon all the tools available to ease this challenging step in their careers and to make it more likely they will be successful. Utilizing the ideas and frameworks we have presented, based on the insights and experiences of many CEOs and chairs, is a step in the right direction. Too often we know the theory but do not turn it into practice, which is a major mistake and a recipe for failure.

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