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Management article
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Reference no. 99308
Published by: Harvard Business Publishing
Published in: "Harvard Business Review", 2002

Abstract

The selection of a CEO (chief executive officer) is one of the most important - and risky - events in the life of any company. Yet the way CEOs are chosen remains little discussed and little understood. The succession process has traditionally unfolded behind closed doors - some observers have even likened it to the election of a pope. To shed light on what works and what doesn''t in CEO succession, the authors lead a roundtable discussion with five distinguished corporate directors: Philip Caldwell, George D Kennedy, GG Michelson, Henry Wendt, and Alfred M Zeien. Collectively, the five directors have participated in dozens of successions, either as board members or as CEOs. In a lively and frank exchange of views and experiences, the roundtable participants explore a broad range of questions: What can a company do to ensure a successful succession? How should management-development and succession processes be managed? How should the board work with the sitting chief executive during the process? What makes for a strong CEO candidate? When should outside candidates be considered? How much competition should be encouraged among potential CEO candidates? What role should executive search firms play? What role should former CEOs play after they are succeeded? Their conversation illuminates a corporate challenge that is as difficult as it is important.

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Abstract

The selection of a CEO (chief executive officer) is one of the most important - and risky - events in the life of any company. Yet the way CEOs are chosen remains little discussed and little understood. The succession process has traditionally unfolded behind closed doors - some observers have even likened it to the election of a pope. To shed light on what works and what doesn''t in CEO succession, the authors lead a roundtable discussion with five distinguished corporate directors: Philip Caldwell, George D Kennedy, GG Michelson, Henry Wendt, and Alfred M Zeien. Collectively, the five directors have participated in dozens of successions, either as board members or as CEOs. In a lively and frank exchange of views and experiences, the roundtable participants explore a broad range of questions: What can a company do to ensure a successful succession? How should management-development and succession processes be managed? How should the board work with the sitting chief executive during the process? What makes for a strong CEO candidate? When should outside candidates be considered? How much competition should be encouraged among potential CEO candidates? What role should executive search firms play? What role should former CEOs play after they are succeeded? Their conversation illuminates a corporate challenge that is as difficult as it is important.

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