CEO Appointments Reach Record Levels  

CEO appointments reach record levels, surpassing pre-pandemic highs according to latest Heidrick & Struggles' Route to the Top report. Vice chairmen Jeff Sanders and Bonnie Gwin share the latest intelligence gathered by the firm. Steven John & Associates founder Steve John then weighs in on the current state of the search industry.

November 22, 2021 – Companies in the first half of 2021 appointed a record number of chief executive officers, making up for a significant slowdown in the second half of 2020, according to the ‘2021 Route to the Top’ report from Heidrick & Struggles. The global intelligence survey shows that compared to their predecessors, new chief executives are more likely to be women (11 percent), to be from countries other than where the company is headquartered (30 percent) and to have cross-border experience (46 percent). “The appointments in early 2021 provide a first-look at the CEOs that will lead in a post-pandemic era,” said Jeff Sanders, the search firm’s vice chairman and co-managing partner of its global CEO and board of directors’ practice. “The top job, like so many others, has been altered by the rapid changes that have taken place over the last 18 months.”

“We are seeing companies start to look beyond the traditional ranks of CFO and COO when looking for their next CEO,” he said. “In fact, we saw the proportion of new CEOs who held other C-suite roles more than double in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year, revealing that boards and organizations are taking a more expansive view in their CEO succession planning.”

2021 Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Recruiting Report:
Building a Balanced and Diverse Workforce

Hunt Scanlon Media’s latest market intelligence recruiting report – this time focused on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – will be available later this fall! The nation’s top executive recruiters are resetting expectations and looking for new ways forward to build balanced and diverse workforce teams for their clients.

According to executive recruiters, DE&I should not just be a priority, but an integrated part of every company’s leadership goals. Some companies have even tied DE&I metrics to executive compensation. But it’s more than that.

Part of building strong, diverse hiring teams means asking yourself: “Who is my company culture going to attract – and how will it engage people who are here?” This question can be very difficult to answer if you assume everyone feels welcome already just because you do. Fostering diversity, equity and inclusion within organizations is more than just the right ethical decision. “It is one of the best business decisions a company can make,” said Keri Gavin, a partner with Hanold Associates and leader of the search firm’s Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion practice. Hanold Associates is a proud sponsor of this year’s report. This report will help organizations prioritize DE&I as a business imperative that drives greater competitiveness, innovation and business results. Get it now! 

The annual study of CEO placements provides an analysis of the profiles of the 1,095 CEOs at the largest publicly listed companies in 24 markets as of July 5. Included in the report’s data are companies from Australia and New Zealand, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the U.K. and the U.S. For the first time, the report also analyzed the race and ethnicity of Fortune 100 CEOs in the U.S. and found: Four percent are Asian, four percent are Hispanic/Latinx, three percent are black and one percent are Middle Eastern or North African.

Additional findings from the global Route to the Top 2021 report include:

  • Nearly one-third of CEOs with previous C-suite experience appointed globally in the first half of 2021 (32 percent) came from a role other than CEO, CFO or COO.
  • Progress toward gender equity surged forward after last year’s pause.
  • Sixty-two percent of appointments were internal during the first half of 2021, up from 53 percent of appointments during the same period in 2020.
  • Globally, the profile of CEOs in 2021 show.

“As the global corporate environment continues to evolve to a greater stakeholder view, a change is also happening for the CEO,” said Bonnie Gwin, vice chairman and co-managing partner of the global CEO and board of directors practice, Heidrick & Struggles. “CEOs are quickly becoming the standard-bearer for a wide-range of issues from cybersecurity, sustainability, social justice and diversity, equity and inclusion, to inspiring employees and navigating rapid digital and societal transformation. These changes are requiring a new CEO profile that brings a wide and differing range of experiences in life and business to the role.”

CEO Appointments Keeping Recruiters Busy

Steve John is founder and principal search consultant of Steven John & Associates LLC. He launched his firm to serve organizations in need of expert legal talent. He brings a wealth of experience in the recruitment of attorneys from a wide range of disciplines. That experience reflects a broad range of industries and includes both private and public companies as well as academic and not-for-profit institutions.

In addition to his general counsel search practice, Mr. John has developed expertise in the recruitment of attorneys in real estate, intellectual property, higher education law, social justice, and regulatory compliance in a number of highly regulated industries.

Mr. John recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the current state of the executive search sector and the type of leaders most in demand. Following are excerpts from that discussion.

Steve John

Steve, with the business climate returning to normal, what types of leaders are best suited to guide top companies?

Despite our earnest hopes of returning to normal in a post-vaccine world, the global business climate is not returning to what we remember of our pre-pandemic lives. Organizations of all types are struggling to get a handle on the evolving pandemic. Confusing messaging from public health officials, political jockeying and social unrest continue to muddy the waters of a total return to normal. Compounding the challenges of navigating uncertainty is the reality of increased public scrutiny of decision-making inside enterprises of all types. Customers, employees, and investors are hyper-aware of the challenges institutions face to stabilize operations. In this climate of continued uncertainty, the most successful leaders will be those who can clearly articulate a vision that will inspire diverse constituencies. They are bold, creative, empathetic people committed to transparency and a high ethical standard of conduct in their public and private lives. Long gone are the days when power alone insulated even the most revered captains of industry. Fumbles—in the form of strategic errors, boorish public behavior, and even criminal activity—see the light of day quickly through social media and the 24/7 news cycle. Today, no leader can escape the scrutiny, and none are immune from the consequences of their behavior.

What skill sets are more in demand today?

Communication, communication, communication! The most effective leaders are skilled at distilling complex information and delivering their message in a way that both informs and inspires those they lead, no matter how hard the message may be to hear. Great communicators can meet the challenge of translating data and information on strategic initiatives to a diverse assortment of stakeholders. They are also dexterous at navigating various media types, from internal email to social networking platforms.

What else?

Today’s leader must be hyper self-aware. Armed with the knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses, influential leaders focus on their core strengths and delegate to others things that are not in their wheelhouse. The ability to focus on core strengths and delegate the rest to others requires confidence and the ability to trust the people around them. That means letting go of the minutia, leaving operational details to the subject matter experts. As the pace of change continues to accelerate, those who are unable or unwilling to rise to the occasion will create a drag on innovation and growth. To succeed in today’s rapidly changing business landscape, a leader must be an intellectually curious, life-long learner. They embrace and are inspired by change.

“The most effective leaders are skilled at distilling complex information and delivering their message in a way that both informs and inspires those they lead, no matter how hard the message may be to hear.”

What are some of the top challenges facing leaders today?

Mounting concerns about the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus are upending plans to bring people back to offices. Lagging vaccination rates coupled with rising infection rates may keep kids home from school for a second year. Employees are increasingly frustrated with leaders who do not seem to hear their concerns about their safety in the workplace or the challenges they continue to face at home balancing work and family responsibility. Anyone leading a team today will have to face these frustrations head-on or risk the kind of employee unrest and turnover that could cripple even the best-laid plans to mitigate the business and operational risks inherent in running a business during a global pandemic.

What’s it all mean for hiring?

Beyond the immediate need to sort out a back-to-office strategy, leaders everywhere are grappling with the challenges of hiring and retaining people who are far more focused on quality-of-life issues than ever before. We are in the midst of a dramatic shift in the labor market as employees at every level take stock of their career and life choices. Reports of mass resignations embolden them, and they are asserting themselves in unprecedented ways. Our executive clients report that employee activism has increased significantly in 2021, frustrating plans to get back to traditional in-person work models.

Related: Major Paradigm Shifts Coming Out of the Coronavirus Crisis 

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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