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Recruitment
Harvard Business Review

How to choose the right CEO for your company

Authors
Harvard Business Review
Business Advice
4 minute Read

The best stepping-stone to the corner office is changing. The vast majority of new CEOs still come from within.

For example, in 2020, 77% of new S&P 500 CEOs were internal promotions. But whereas 20 years ago chief operating officers were the overwhelming favorites, accounting for 76% of such appointments, they have lost significant ground and look to be overtaken soon by another group of aspirants: division heads. According to a new study, however, neither cohort is the most likely to deliver outstanding results.

“Leapfrog CEOs” — leaders appointed from one level below C-suite officers or division heads, with titles such as senior vice president and general manager — have the best odds of steering their firms into the top quartile of performers.

A new focus on complexity and opportunity

As part of a large ongoing study of CEOs, researchers from the executive recruiting and leadership advisory firm Spencer Stuart analysed every CEO succession in the S&P 500 since 2000. The waning numbers of COOs tapped for the top job reflect changing strategic priorities, they say.

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