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A Playbook For The Next CEO Transition

Turnover in the top spot has never been higher

Times are uncertain for CEOs, judging from the record turnover in 2019. Experts chalk up the turbulence and turnover to fears of an oncoming recession, boards’ lack of patience, pressure from activist investors and more. There has also been an inordinate amount of scandal and even bad CEO behavior—the #metoo movement and today’s “cancel culture” have spilled over into the C-suite, meaning boards are less forgiving of CEOs who deliver bottom-line results but make front-page headlines for the wrong reasons.

I think it is a positive trend that CEOs are being held to higher standards. Although I also agree with Yale Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld that sometimes it takes courage for boards to stick by controversial chief executives.

The point is, even for companies blessed with great CEOs who seem set for the long haul, now is a good time to ask: What would we do? In the event of a CEO scandal, or illness, or sudden departure, are we equipped to deal with the ensuing uncertainty?

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