2012: Captains in disruption and the incoming class of CEOs

The 2012 study took a close look at the professional and educational backgrounds of incoming CEOs. In 2012, 15.0 percent of CEOs left office, up from 14.2 percent in 2011. This was the second-highest rate of CEO successions in the history of our study. The new leaders who came into the office were, for the most part, familiar faces: Companies promoted people from within 71 percent of the time; 26 percent of incoming CEOs had worked at the same company for their entire career; 81 percent of new CEOs hailed from the same country in which the company’s headquarters are located; and 95 percent of new CEOs were men.

We also examined what leaders should do when their companies face fundamental disruption, as every company will sooner or later. Our feature article in strategy+business explains how CEOs can navigate to advantage through a disruption. To make sure their company does better than others, chief executives must personally lead an effort that recognizes the disruption’s dynamics, anticipates its likely effect, develops a response, manages that response, and sustains the necessary changes in organization and culture to ensure the company doesn’t backslide.

Key publications

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The 2012 chief executive study, "Time for new CEOs," reports the highest number of planned CEO successions at the world’s largest 2,500 public companies in the history of the study and finds that companies often seek familiarity in new CEOs.
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Sooner or later, every corporation will face disruption. If the CEO is not directly involved in guiding his or her company through the storm, the entire company is likely to suffer. Yet even in the worst disruptions, some companies do better than others. This article includes insights from Antony Jenkins, the new CEO of Barclays, and the noted management thinker Clayton M. Christensen.
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CEO turnover in 2012 was trending high, but in a more planned and stable manner.
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The new CEOs in 2012 had neither the diversity nor the global backgrounds that you might expect.

Additional insights

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See additional insights from the authors on this year’s unprecedented number of planned turnovers and on who the incoming CEOs are.
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View this one-page graphic highlighting data on the professional and educational backgrounds of new CEOs in 2012.

Past studies