Picture this: six months into her job, the CEO finds a fleeting moment to savour. In the morning, she announces record company results to stakeholders and a generous profit share to delighted colleagues. In the afternoon she calls in the HR director and thanks him for a level of executive support and preparation that has made her elevation to the top job an early success.
“Thank you for helping me to prepare for my initiation as CEO of this business and for helping me to make the leap from a CEO-inwaiting to the headline act,” she says. Sound familiar? If this is the kind of appreciation that happens inside your business: congratulations. You are way ahead of the pack. Unfortunately, our research suggests that when the CEO takes up the hot seat, there is a high level of personal doubt about what the role entails. It can take CEOs some time to get into their stride. In the past, it was a matter of sink or swim; that is no longer a sensible option for succession planning.
Our research, The CEO Report: Embracing the Paradoxes of Leadership and the Power of Doubt, conducted in association with Saïd Business School, has produced a wealth of insight into how the CEO fits into their role. We interviewed more than 150 CEOs, with an average tenure of six-and-ahalf years, and combined revenues of $1.658 billion. The candour of this group of people revealed their doubts and surprise at the unique demands of the role. In most cases, it was widely different from their expectations.
And it is here that senior HR leaders can be instrumental in supporting them to ensure business is propelled forward (our research showed that business performance dropped back in these early transitional months after a new CEO arrives).