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Leadership Insights

How to Help Your CEO Hit the Ground Running

5 min read

Ongoing support for newly appointed CEOs is no longer a “nice to have” but a “must have.” Our global leadership experts explain how boards can provide this support to ensure their new CEOs hit the ground running

CEOs are struggling to make an impact, drive results at pace, and effect change. This isn’t for a lack of ability, but because the job is rapidly evolving, with CEOs facing novel and unprecedented challenges, making it much harder than it once was.

Various socio-economic and market dynamics are compounding and acting as the driving forces behind this increasingly difficult leadership role. As the ‘captain of the ship’, leaving the CEO at the mercy of these forces could open the organization to failure. Below, we explain why, and provide three strategies boards can implement immediately to ensure their CEO, and by extension their organization, is given the best possible chance of success.

A new cohort of CEOs takes the reins

Over 1500 American CEOs left their posts in 2023 – a record number and a 50% rise on the previous year. Elsewhere in the world – and particularly in the UK – the story is the same. CEOs have, and are continuing to quit, in high numbers.

While employees chose to leave their jobs during the height of the pandemic, most CEOs stayed put, navigating their organizations through Covid-19 rather than jumping ship. With their organizations subsequently stabilized, many saw 2023 as the time to pursue greener pastures or retire altogether.

CEO turnover is not necessarily a negative. It provides an opportunity to increase leadership diversity, bring new ideas to an organization, and for the next generation of leaders to take the reins. However, turnover on such scale shrinks the talent pool, leaving boards with an untested cohort that have less experience in senior leadership positions. Despite ‘relative’ stabilization, economies are still subject to heightened disruption and this new cohort of CEOs face challenges with no precedent for solving them.

Disruption reaches new heights

According to the 2023 UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study, 93% of CEOs are experiencing 10 or more simultaneous challenges to their business. From inflation and talent scarcity to political polarisation and climate change, CEOs must navigate a landscape of continuous and complex global shocks.

The ongoing barrage of disruption, or “perma-crisis” as it is now known, is hindering many CEOs and affecting their ability to achieve results and drive growth. This is particularly noticeable across ESG, with 87% of CEOs admitting the current disruption is limiting their ability to deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

In short, the CEO’s role is now so unique in the complexity of issues they must address, that few executives are truly ready to tackle the challenges. Many will need more than just the occasional pat on the back from their board chair if they are to succeed in this environment.

How boards can support their CEOs

Particularly for first-time CEOs, we recommend several strategies boards can implement to set them up for success, and help make the role their own. These strategies can help CEOs transition into the leadership role and learn from more experienced talent in the organization. It makes the role’s difficulty more of a gradual incline rather than a steep and prolonged climb.

Offering an extended onboarding period means a CEO can immerse themselves in the organization’s culture, history, and operational nuances, enabling them to develop important strategic insights. During this period, they have the time to build trust and rapport with stakeholders – an invaluable process for leaders who need to “bring others on a journey” in driving change and growth. For some of our clients, this has involved boards extending onboarding programs up to 18 months, to ensure the incoming CEO has the best chance for success.

Shadowing the outgoing CEO provides similar benefits for new CEOs. Working with the incumbent before their departure provides the new CEO with a seamless transition into the role, allowing them to gather first-hand experience and knowledge from a more seasoned leader. It also offers the new CEO a window into how previous operational challenges have been dealt with and useful insights into stakeholder dynamics. Shadowing means new CEOs can make informed decisions from the outset.

Finally, mentoring and coaching can start from day one, and continue for as long as the board and CEO feel it is necessary and useful. Mentors and coaches provide CEOs with personalized guidance that fosters professional growth, enhances leadership skills, and accelerates their ability to navigate the new organization’s complex landscape with confidence and agility. Like onboarding and shadowing, mentoring and coaching helps new CEOs quickly find their stride.

Importantly, these initiatives cultivate a supportive and collaborative environment, building strong relationships between the CEO, the board, and key stakeholders. These bonds are critical in driving organizational success and long-term sustainability.


When appointing board members and CEOs, Odgers Berndtson works closely with organizations to ensure the transition into the role is a success. Our support includes succession planning, coaching and mentoring, and leadership development and assessment.

Get in touch. Follow the links below to discover more, or contact our dedicated leadership experts from your local Odgers Berndtson office to discuss your CEO requirements.


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