Why a hospital's likely CEO heir may not be the right choice

In more than half of 110 CEO transitions consulting firm ghSMART helped companies with in the past two years, the "obvious" choice was not the person most likely to succeed in the role, leaders from ghSMART wrote in the Harvard Business Review.

"We find that even at the most respected companies with disciplined succession processes in place, well-suited candidates may not even make it into the shortlist of succession candidates — overshadowed by 'safe' or 'chosen' ones," the authors — ghSMART leaders Elena Lytkina Botelho and Shoma Chatterjee Hayden — wrote.

The authors cited three reasons why this may occur: power of the apparent successor, likability holding more weight than it should and the irresistibility of a safe choice.

To avoid these three pitfalls, the authors suggested three tactics: creating a CEO scoreboard tied to business strategy, donning a "broader and deeper" lens on the leadership bench and trusting agitators.

"The succession process enhancements we recommend here may be uncomfortable and time-consuming, but they help ensure that the right candidates don't get overshadowed by the 'safe' ones," the authors wrote. "As the chair of a succession committee recently reminded his board: 'We've worked very hard for the last few years to execute this process smoothly. It's worth reminding ourselves that shareholders will judge us on the outcome — Did we pick the right person to run this company? — not on how good we felt about our discussions to get there.'"

Read the full Harvard Business Review article here.

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