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A New Model For Picking The Next CEO: Why Progression, Not Succession, Is What Companies Need Today

Stocks in this article: HSII

CHICAGO and NEW YORK, April 5, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- "CEO succession planning must undergo a fundamental shift," says Stephen A. Miles , a vice chairman at Heidrick & Struggles and head of the firm's leadership advisory services. "The dated succession model of entitlement – based on the new CEO's being personally tapped by the outgoing chief – must give way to what we call a 'progression' process."

Georgia Tech management professor Nate Bennett , an expert on succession issues and frequent co-author of Mr. Miles, continues, "While succession focuses on who will step in if the CEO gets hit by a bus tomorrow, progression expands the efforts to the entire leadership team. Who not only can take charge tomorrow, but one, five, and twenty years down the road?"

"The succession language used for ages by monarchies and governments was adopted by business in the 20th century, and this model just doesn't work anymore," says Dr. Bennett. "We need a new vernacular for this era – one that acknowledges the complexity of leadership development and the forward-thinking needs of the modern corporation."

The authors created a new term for this next-generation succession process – "progression planning." In advising hundreds of CEOs and boards worldwide – from much of the Fortune 50 – Mr. Miles is helping companies implement a new way of thinking about their CEO succession plans and shifting their efforts toward a more rigorous, forward-looking process.

"Before 2008, the rising tide of the booming economy propped up a lot of mediocre leaders, but the current financial crisis has taken away the safety net," says Mr. Miles. "Companies simply can't afford less-than-stellar leadership today, nor can they afford to be caught without the right leadership plan if their CEO suddenly leaves. And the team that supports the CEO can be just as critical to success, or even survival."

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