Seven Myths of CEO Succession

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Myth #2: There is one best model for succession. "There are several different paths companies can take to naming a successor – including internal and external approaches," says Mr. Miles. "One reason companies fall short at succession planning is that they often select the wrong model for their current situation. A company may need an external recruit to lead a turnaround, for instance, or may have the capability to groom multiple internal executives over a period of time to allow the most promising one to shine through. One size does not fit all."

The CEO's departure is, sooner or later, inevitable – but are companies prepared for it?

With CEOs turning over at a rate of 10 to 15 percent per year – from jumping to another firm to resigning due to poor health or poor performance, or just retiring – companies would be expected to be well-prepared for CEO succession. But governance experts from Stanford and The Miles Group have found a number of broad misunderstandings about CEO transitions and how ready the board is for this major change.

In their recent piece for the Stanford Closer Look Series, David Larcker and Brian Tayan of the Corporate Governance Research Initiative at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Stephen Miles of The Miles Group name seven myths around CEO succession – myths shared by corporate boards as well as the larger business community.

"The selection of the CEO is the single most important decision a board of directors can make," say the authors, but turmoil around these decisions at the top "have called into question the reliability of the process that companies use to identify and develop future leaders."


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