CEO succession: what we know and where to go?

Ormonde R. Cragun, Anthony J. Nyberg, Pat M. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to conduct a comprehensive analysis and synthesis of the splintered chief executive officer (CEO) succession literature and provide a unifying future research agenda. Design/methodology/approach: This review content analyzes 227 relevant articles published after 1994. These articles examine the causes, process, replacement, and consequences of CEO succession. Findings: The review develops a comprehensive typology, identifies gaps in the literature, and proposes opportunities for future research. For instance, the CEO succession literature can be classified along four primary dimensions: when, how, who, and consequences. These four primary dimensions are further explained by ten secondary factors and 30 tertiary components. Research opportunities include: enlarging the data pool to expand the repertoire of firms studied, incorporating the CEO’s perspective, and integrating CEO succession research with literatures in selection, turnover, and human capital theory. Practical implications: Through integrating research across research domains, future research will be able to better predict when CEO succession will occur, how to avoid unwanted CEO succession, how to better implement CEO succession, and how to minimize negative aspects and maximize positive aspects of CEO succession for the firm and the CEO, as well as understand the consequences of CEO selection, and help move toward and understanding of how to prevent poor performance, and retain high performing CEOs. Originality/value: This is the first comprehensive review since 1994. It creates a typology to guide and categorize future research, and shows ways to incorporate relevant, but often ignored literatures (e.g. human resources, psychology, decision making, and human capital).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)222-264
Number of pages43
JournalJournal of Organizational Effectiveness
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 5 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited.


  • CEO dismissal
  • CEO origin
  • CEO selection
  • CEO succession
  • CEO turnover


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