Boardroom Guide to CEO Progression

Developing leaders to navigate the disruptors of today and tomorrow is like making a Hollywood blockbuster.

“How you manage CEO succession is how you manage your business.” This bold declaration comes courtesy of a board member who served on a CEO succession panel organized by Korn Ferry. It is not only provocative, or perhaps even audacious, but it has the added virtue of being true. A company is only as good as its leadership, and having the right CEO with the right skills, experience, and temperament in place at the right time is crucial.

So forget about CEO succession. It is time for a new approach— CEO progression.

CEO progression is not a short-term proposition. Unlike CEO succession, which is often treated as a one-time event, CEO progression, as the word implies, is a process that takes place over time. Much like shooting a movie, it requires time, good strategic planning, and wise governance. Extending the analogy further, think of your board members as a film’s executive producers, the CEO as the director, and your chief human resources officer (CHRO) as the casting director. As for your handpicked potential internal CEO successors—one of which will ultimately be tasked with developing, executing, and adapting your business strategy—they are the actors hired to breathe life into the words of the script. Without each of these people and their roles meshing, the movie could very well turn out to be a flop.

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