Spencer Stuart: Crisis Put CEO Successions on Hold in 2020. Expect a Rebound in 2021.

Boards tend to pause leadership successions during turbulent times, and 2020 was no exception. Globally, CEO transitions fell 42% between the first and second halves of the year as the economic strain of the Covid-19 pandemic intensified (see Figure 1). Transitions declined a modest 4% for the year compared with the average annual number in 2018 and 2019, reflecting the strong pace of transitions early in 2020.

Following Spencer Stuart's July 2020 study of CEO transitions during periods of turmoil, they analyzed the pandemic’s full-year global impact on CEO succession. Despite regional differences, the broad trends followed the same pattern as previous crises.

Topics discussed in this article:

  • CEO succession slows in a crisis.
  • CEO successions drop most in hard-hit industries.
  • Boards seek stability in volatile times.
  • Board directors step into the leadership void.
  • Outlook for 2021.

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Cathy Anterasian, PhD; Courtney della Cava; Claudius Hildebrand, PhD; and Dale Cottrell
Thought leadership category