Steering through a ‘Leadership Transition’

Steering through a ‘Leadership Transition’

An executive leadership change is not always an exciting time for a company. It is rare to have a smooth, uneventful transition; even if there is no internal crisis, a shakeup involves a lot of new dynamics and requires adjustments from both the executive team and the other employees.

In the weeks leading to and right after a transition, there might be an air of uncertainty in the company. Morale might take a slight dip and people may have more questions pertaining to the future of the company. Many will wonder about the leadership styles of the new people coming in and how it will impact the company culture. They will be wary of new leadership and may even prefer the old leader, which is always a frustrating situation for everybody involved.

With the increase in CEO turnover in 2019, more companies might expect to do succession planning for their highest-ranking officials. This process does not need to be ungainly, though, and need not disturb the existing dynamic.

Have a leadership lineup

Research says that planned CEO departures take an average of 3.5 days, compared to the nearly three months it takes to find a replacement CEO. This means there’s a much shorter time of instability. Having a planned departure also results in a company’s more favourable stock performance, as this type of transition shows that the company is stable.

When you are managing a transition, consider having an internal candidate take on the role. An internal senior manager will have a wider view of the industry and high-level decision-making capabilities to manage the company while there is no official appointment. An interim preferably is someone who has closely worked with the outgoing leader and understands specifics about the role.

Engage your board with active succession planning

Your transition cannot happen in a few hours. Even if your CEO has decided that he or she must leave the company, they must stay on for a few weeks to prepare the next executive. This means meeting with the company’s executive board and coming up with a timeline, complete with milestones for internal stakeholders.

In case your top leadership is not looking to step down, succession planning is still a good idea. Some companies do not want to make plans for transitions, in fear of offending the current CEO. However, they are missing out on the opportunity of laying down proper protocols should the leadership be suddenly vacant.

Let your employees in on the loop

No one likes being left out—especially employees who have stayed loyal to the company for years. When an executive board finds a replacement, they should make it a point to communicate this to the staff. If the previous executive was quite popular, their departure might surprise staffers, and keeping quiet about it will do more harm than good. It is true, especially if the outgoing leader is leaving on good terms with the executive board.

Being transparent with employees helps them accept the changes in the company better. This is also a good time to reiterate that management has the company’s best interests in mind.

That said, the new leader should be able to pick up quickly where his or her predecessor left off. He or she should inform employees about any changes that would be done in the next few weeks or months. At the same time, there should be continuity in his and the previous leader’s presence. It will ensure fewer grumblings among the ranks of more senior employees.


Preparing for a CEO transition is never easy. There are many factors that contribute to an executive’s success on their first day in office, but one of the most important is planning. A well-planned transition will give the outgoing leader a graceful exit and the incoming one a warm welcome.

Securing executive search services helps your company stay on top of the process. Having a headhunter service take care of your transition will make the process more manageable. Not only will it ensure you get a candidate suited for the role, but it takes the complex hiring off of your hands and allows you to focus on transitioning the rest of your team.

We offer bespoke executive search services in the UK. We help companies acquire top talent and offer customisable solutions for their needs. Get in touch with us to see how we can help.

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