CEO Succession

Sun, 09 Mar 2008 15:17:18 +0000

I was surprised to learn in Good to Great that outside CEOs were not associated with the transition from good companies to great companies. Harvard Business School Professor Joseph Bower picks up on this theme in his recent Marketplace commentary:

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What companies really need is what I call in my new book, The CEO Within, an "inside outsider" -- that is, an outstanding inside performer who has retained his or her objectivity. They have energy, ambition and intellectual integrity. They see the magnitude of change needed, and because they are insiders they can move quickly with a real chance of success because they know the people, systems, culture and assets of the company.

Why aren't there more candidates like this available? To begin, a surprising number of companies don't have a real succession process. They treat succession as an uncomfortable event. Managing the development of leaders inside the company requires investment in every aspect of the way the firm is managed: who is recruited, how businesses are organized, how executives are paid and promoted, and how operations are planned and resources allocated. The process requires years, not days, of preparation. Companies need to change their ways on CEO succession or pay a price that goes far beyond the new CEO's compensation package.

At Dartmouth, the Board of Trustees are gearing up for a search for a successor to Jim Wright as the College's president. I wonder if this will have any bearing on the selection of Dartmouth's next president.

Cross-posted at Vox Baby.