Changing leaders: the board's role in CEO succession ... roundtable discussion

Harv Bus Rev. 1999 May-Jun;77(3):96-105, 209.


The selection of a CEO 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, G. G. 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.

MeSH terms

  • Administrative Personnel / standards*
  • Decision Making, Organizational
  • Governing Board / organization & administration*
  • Institutional Management Teams
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Personnel Selection / organization & administration*
  • Role
  • United States