Transitions at the Top' Provides a How-to Guide for Helping Guarantee a Successful CEO Transition


New Book offers Specific Actions for Boards, C-Suite Executives, HR Leaders and Senior Managers to Help New CEOs and their Organizations during Leadership Change

LOS ANGELES, MAY 6, 2015 — Korn Ferry (NYSE:KFY), the preeminent authority on leadership and talent, today announced the release of “Transitions at the Top” a new book by leadership experts Dan Ciampa and David Dotlich. Dotlich is a thought leader and frequent collaborator with other top influencers in the field and founder of Pivot Leadership, a Korn Ferry company.

“Transitions at the Top” is an insightful, informative guide to navigating a change in leadership. It differs from other books on CEO leadership transition in that it not only is a ‘how to” book for the incoming CEO, but for the broader organization.

This book provides the specific principles, guidelines, and actions that boards, sitting C-suite executives, and HR leaders need to guarantee a successful CEO transition.

“Continuity is key as one leader passes the mantle to a successor, and this book spans the steps and events that take place from when the candidate accepts the offer, all the way through the point where a critical mass of followers have accepted him or her as the established leader,” said Dotlich.

Dotlich and Ciampa offer specific tips that major players in the process should follow during the transition:

The Board’s Role: The board’s role in a top-level transition is to be accountable for the transition and to skillfully manage the relationships with the standing CEO and the new leader. This includes providing oversight that is wise and useful to the transition and continually supportive without being overly involved. It also means allowing the existing CEO to exit gracefully and at the right time while also guiding and backing the new leader, and paying particular attention to the culture and its political dynamics as the transition goes through its various steps.

The Standing CEO’s Role: The CEO’s task is to direct the design and implementation of the transition’s various steps, and to ensure that the CEO’s successor seamlessly moves into the top position. Doing this requires that an organized, efficient process be in place and that the CEO believes that the success of the person who next steps into the CEO position is the final, important objective on his/her watch.

The CHRO’s Role: This role is divided into two parts. The first is ensuring each step of the transition process operates as it should. The second part of the CHRO’s role is to be an internal advisor to both the current and incoming CEO on the transition, including advice on the cultural and political landscape.

Senior Manager’s Role: The role of senior managers in the transition is to prepare the organization for the handoff and to make sure both they and the people in their functions or departments adapt to a new leadership style and, possibly, to new strategic and operational priorities. Preparing the organization includes communicating to the departments or functions at the right cadence and levels of specificity, making sure that both communication as well as any changes necessary are in sync with those of peers.

Costs of Transition Failure

The cost of transition failure is very significant—not only financially but also in career impact and company reputation. It is time to address this problem because the record of success of CEO transitions is dismal and it is getting worse. A February 2012 Fortune article estimated that 40 percent of executives who are hired into a job from outside or are promoted fail within the first 18 months. CEOs who depart within their first 18 months on the job cost small-cap companies an estimated $12 million each. For large-cap companies, the average figure is $52 million. Some research estimates that these departures add up to a minimum loss in the United States of $14 billion each year. Other research shows that a failed leader transition can cost 10 to 20 times the executive’s yearly compensation.

Praise for “Transitions at the Top”

“Senior transitions are seminal events but are often botched, at great cost to the company and its shareholders. Too often succession decisions are made by a board, with those crucial first months then left entirely to the new leader to navigate. This book takes a different vantage point and illuminates the critical role of the company, its board, and senior managers in making sure those vital successions work. Written in a straightforward, practical manner, a must read for all involved.”
– Ken Leibler, Former CEO Liberty Financial Companies and Former President American Stock Exchange, Director Northeast Utilities, and Trustee Putnam Investments Funds.

“Without a doubt, corporations have raised their game on the use of various techniques to improve the likelihood that externally hired talent will succeed in their most business-critical roles. What many companies haven’t done, however, is to spend the same amount of time on building a set of transition practices to further increase the probability these executives will thrive and prosper in their new roles and in their new companies. The cost of a failed transition is monumental, and comes in the form of missed market opportunities, a loss of business momentum, reputational damage, and potential damage to the credibility of the CEO and/or the company’s board of directors. Fortunately, Dan Ciampa and David Dotlich outline a practical, compelling playbook that if properly executed, will substantially increase the chance of success in senior leadership transitions. A timely and important book on a very important subject.”
—L. Kevin Cox, Chief Human Resources Officer, American Express Company; Director, Kraft Foods Group; Director, Corporate Executive Board

“Transitions at the Top is a welcome, long-overdue addition to our thinking about leadership and transitions. Far too little attention has been paid to the dynamics and consequences of CEO succession, especially to the critical role the organization plays in driving success or failure. As Ciampa and Dotlich clearly demonstrate, the costs of botched succession processes are very high. And what it takes to make them work is not rocket science, nor is it overly costly or burdensome. It just takes discipline, clarity about roles, and unswerving commitment to the right principles and processes. Follow their advice and the result will be world-class succession planning and implementation. This is a book that every CEO, Board member and senior HR executive should read.”
—Michael Watkins, Author “First 90 Days” ; Co-Founder Genesis Advisors

To purchase Transitions at the Top, visit:

About the Authors

David L. Dotlich, Ph.D. is president of Pivot Leadership, a Korn Ferry company, and is an advisor and coach to CEOs and boards of companies such as Telstra, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Ericsson, and DPDHL. He is an entrepreneur who has started, grown, and sold two large companies and is a former executive vice president of Honeywell International. He is the author of 12 books on leadership and has been named one of the Top 50 Coaches in the United States.

Dan Ciampa is an advisor on CEO transitions, operations improvement, culture change, and top-level organization for implementing new strategies. He was chairman and CEO for Rath & Strong, Inc., and named by Businessweek as among the top five CEO advisors. He is author of four other books, including Right from the Start, with Michael Watkins. For more on his background, see

About Pivot Leadership

Pivot Leadership, a Korn Ferry company, partners with Fortune 500 executives to help them lead, innovate, and successfully ‘pivot’ their businesses in volatile markets and changing industries. Pivot designs and implements corporate strategy and talent development programs that are creative, customized and scalable. The company has developed leaders in 28 countries across the globe. To learn more, visit:

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is the preeminent authority on leadership and talent. For nearly half a century, clients have trusted us to recruit world-class leaders. Today, we are their partner in designing organizational strategy and developing their people to achieve unimaginable success.

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