Seven Myths of CEO Succession

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Myth #7: Boards want a female or minority CEO. "The numbers speak for themselves," says Professor Larcker. "'Diversity' ranks high on the list of attributes that board members formally look for in CEO candidates, and yet female and ethnic minorities continue to have low representation among actual CEOs. We continue to see that boards select CEOs with leadership styles they perceive to be similar to their own, and the fact is that boards today are still highly non-diverse when it comes to gender and ethnic backgrounds."

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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