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Are companies playing it safe with C-suite succession?

According to a recent Raconteur article, internal CEO appointments hit a record high in 2023, with Boards at global, publicly listed companies seeming to play it safe by hiring more than three quarters from within.

‘Better the devil you know’ has merit, but does a more risk-averse approach to CEO appointments foster the right innovation, growth and, ultimately, sustained success?

In my experience, internal candidates often prove to be the better choice, but too few companies, especially mid-sized ones, have strong enough benches for robust succession planning.

Even if you decide upon an internal appointment, it shouldn’t be at the expense of a thorough search process. Ensuring you have the best person for the job remains your primary objective, with internal candidates forming part of the shortlist rigorously assessed by companies such as NewlandRock for the role.

Here are 4 questions to pose when evaluating an internal vs external hire within your C-suite:

1: Do you need fresh perspective?
A CEO appointed from outside will have less attachment to the past. An internal hire won’t deeply scrutinise projects started by an incumbent leadership team, even if they aren’t working well.

2: Is your digital transformation and innovation stagnating?
External CEOs can bring different industry experience and skills, including new technology know-how. They often challenge the status quo and act as a catalyst for change, helping foster innovative debate. 

3: Do established relationships hinder difficult decisions?
Strong internal relationships can get in the way of making bold decisions, including leadership changes. A CEO appointed from outside will be more objective.

4: Do you need a ‘Talent Disruptor‘
A new CEO can act as a magnet for fresh talent, setting a new vision and attracting like-minded individuals as well as re-energising and inspiring the existing leadership team.

About BartonRock: BartonRock is the executive search partner for high-growth consumer and retail businesses

We manage the careers of executives whose know-how and commercial acumen steer the strategic direction for companies to thrive.

Our assignments search for executives who understand how to operate in dynamic and entrepreneurial environments.

For more information visit: or contact or call +44 (0) 20 8092 6048.

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