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TheStreet Open House

Succession Takes Planning: Leadership Matters

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Reading a couple of days ago about Dun & Bradstreet 's (DNB) CEO Steven W. Alesio's upcoming retirement, I was struck by how orderly the succession of leadership was going and how reassuring it is to shareholders who can see that the D&B board is prepared for leadership changes.

This has been the case before at D&B. When Allan Loren retired as CEO and chairman, Alesio moved smoothly into the CEO position first and then the chairman position shortly thereafter. Now, with Alesio's departure, Sara Mathews will move into the CEO position first and then the chairman position.

If you have been following D&B, you can also see that several key senior management shifts have taken place in order to facilitate the transition, although they may or may not replace the COO position. But you have the impression that being around well over a century has taught D&B the value of thoughtful and planned leadership development.

When companies ignore the obvious need to have top executive succession planning in place, they put shareholders at unreasonable risk. What responsibility is more of a priority to a board of directors than to have a lock on current and future leadership of their organization?

This is why the Bank of America (BAC) succession drama is so frustrating. Is it possible that everybody and their uncle knew that Ken Lewis's days were numbered except the board? Even if Lewis is innocent of any wrongdoing, the heat he has taken from the media and the pressure he has been under for months to turn BofA around should have alerted somebody that a plan to ensure uninterrupted leadership was essential.

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