How Do Companies Choose C-Level Executives?

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Aspiring to be general counsel or chief legal officer? It helps to have some insight into how companies select leaders for top executive and other leadership positions – including the disconnect between how the process should work and how it actually works. Note that such transitions can take a year or longer because at such high levels vetting and fit are critically important – sometimes more so than actual legal skill or experience (although ideally, of course, companies don't have to choose between the two). According to Steve Bates's "Making CEOs Most Likely to Succeed: HR can lay the groundwork for a smooth transition," "In today’s competitive job market it’s imperative to find a leader who can not only drive bottom-line business results but also motivate employees and make them want to stay at your organization." It's an observation that applies to GCs and CLOs as well. So how do boards of directors and other senior leaders plan for leadership change? How do organizations choose CEOs (as well as GCs and CLOs)? Once selected, what is the onboarding process? Are the challenges different for leaders transitioning within the company compared to leaders who come from without? What happens to internal candidates who aren't selected?

The stakes are high for these roles, so if you're lining up for a GC or CLO role, prepare to face a lengthy, in-depth due diligence process since the make up of the executive team is one of the most important strategic decisions a business makes.

Read Steve Bates's "Making CEOs Most Likely to Succeed: HR can lay the groundwork for a smooth transition" in SHRM's HR Magazine for a peek behind the curtain and multiple interviews with chief human resources officers (CHROs).