13 derailers of CEO succession you should know about

Friday 20th November, 2015

What happens when your CEO unexpectedly resigns?

At Evolve, our experience in advising leading company boards on CEO succession risk management has taught us there are 13 critical elements that have the potential to ‘derail’ the CEO succession planning process.

It is essential that boards are aware of, and fully address, all 13 elements during the CEO succession planning process.  Failure to do so will ultimately lead to heightened leadership risk and threaten the performance and continuity of their business.

So what are the 13 derailers?

1.  The Board is unable to reach unanimous agreement on the CEO success profile and/or the success profile alignment to the company vision and strategy

2.  Inexperienced CEO Succession Committee operating without a charter

3.  Allowing the incumbent CEO to play ‘kingmaker’

4.  Lack of a considered and comprehensive candidate assessment process

5.  Not extracting maximum return-on-investment from the recruitment component of the process

6.  Absence of comprehensive internal and external communication plans

7.  Confidentiality breach e.g. media leak

8.  Managing internal candidates’ expectations

9.  Maintaining internal candidates’ high performance levels during the selection period

10. Flight risk of unsuccessful internal candidates once the new CEO is announced, particularly if there is no feedback and follow up development plans

11. The ‘lame duck CEO’ syndrome, in which the outgoing CEO’s influence is diminished and/or the incumbent makes decisions with little fear of the consequences

12. Decision inertia at the finishing line

13. Lengthy handover

Does your organisation know how to recognise and address all 13 risk areas?

To find out more about Evolve Intelligence’s advisory services for Boards and CEO succession planning, please contact us.


Stephen Harvey is an Executive Director and co-founder of Evolve Intelligence.