Data, Not Assumptions, Should Be Paramount When Selecting a New CEO

Rule number one: Never assume anything.

That’s a bit of advice boards might take to heart when planning for their next CEO. For example, nowhere on the list of best practices for CEO succession planning have we seen the following: make sure to ask top talent whether they want to be CEO. Their answers may surprise you. 

If you think that sounds too obvious, consider this: as part of Korn Ferry’s proprietary CEO Readiness Assessment, the firm queried 79 external and internal CEO candidates between 2010 and 2014 on whether they wanted to become CEO. Nearly a third didn’t.

In our experience, everyone wants the CEO title, but not everyone wants the job. The real problem is that candidates can be swept up in the belief of others that they are the best choice and feel pressured to pursue a job that doesn’t really interest them, resulting in less-than-effective CEOs.

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