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CEO Search & Succession

The CEO: A Personal Reflection

Adapting to a Complex World

View The CEO: A Personal Reflection Highlights and Explore the Data.

Becoming a Chief Executive Officer is a seminal event. It’s the culmination of a career and a lifetime of advancement, the ultimate achievement for many. And yet it is as much the beginning of a new journey as it is the end of the last one. This is particularly true in the current atmosphere of disruption and volatility, extended pressure from internal and external stakeholders, and a general lack of trust in leadership. The role of a CEO is more challenging—and more scrutinized— than it’s ever been.

In this turbulent era, a leader’s capacity to grow and evolve is as critical to success as is meeting financial targets. Indeed, if the person in the corner office is not able to develop and change, he or she will fail—and that failure will ripple through the entire organization.

While CEOs have been studied and surveyed many times, past projects have not focused on the human side—on what it actually feels like to take on the responsibility of the CEO. These studies measure priorities and strategies; they look at what behaviors successful executives exhibit and how their careers developed. But they do not focus on the critical elements of preparation and adaptation. This is the untold story.

How are CEOs coping with this increased pace and pressure? Are today’s CEOs sufficiently prepared for this journey? What do they wish they had known before taking the job? Do they have the support network they need to succeed and adapt? 


As leadership advisors at Egon Zehnder, we partner closely with CEOs on this challenging journey. So rather than making assumptions, we decided to ask them these questions directly. Between November 2017 and January 2018, we conducted a global research project, surveying current chief executives from a wide cross-section of industries, countries, and corporate structures. A large number—402 of them—responded, sharing their perspectives on what the job entails, the level of preparation they felt they had received, their succession planning process, and how they lead and cope in these volatile times. The most compelling results and insights appear in this report, The CEO: A Personal Reflection. This project sheds new light on what it means to be a CEO today—and what these executives require in order to succeed. 


Full Report: The CEO: A Personal Reflection

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