Board Involvement in Succession Process

Board Involvement in Succession Process


Boards today are questioning the adequacy of current succession practices. They are setting higher goals for succession requirements, talent issues, and development plans. The level of board involvement in the succession process varies across companies. Typically, boards review candidates as part of the succession planning process. However, trends demonstrate that boards are becoming more active in the succession process itself.

In our work, we have encountered these typical roles of a board in a succession process.

  • Passive role

    The CEO presents his/her succession needs and requests to the board for information and approval. The board rarely questions or challenges the succession program and executive development. However, board members provide feedback and advice to the CEO or other executives.

  • Reviewing role

    In this most common role, the board examines candidates to succeed the CEO or senior executives. This includes those one level or more away from senior executives. The CEO manages the process by facilitating the presentation of candidates. CEO also manages the information provided to the board. The board serves to review the information and approve plans.

  • Active involvement

    Board Directors work with senior management to develop new talent. The board directly participates in assessments, development planning, mentoring, and structuring succession plans. The CEO allows the board to work independently from the CEO.

We have experienced that boards of directors actively involved in leadership development and succession planning efforts engage in the following activities:

  • Actively discuss and shape, future organization, position, and skill requirements in the context of a succession strategy
  • Identify emergency replacements for critical positions
  • Participate in planning and implementing leadership and succession actions
  • Be in touch and sensitive to senior executives’ levels of engagement

As we know, there is no one best way to do it. Where the organization is, and where they intend to go is critical to what works. Similarly, the leadership style and organizational culture have a heavy bearing on the role board takes. Immaterial of the role, achieving the endpoint is eventually what matters.