Supporting CEO succession and leadership development in a global professional services firm


This professional services firm had a long-tenured, highly successful CEO.

The board wanted to instigate a long-term succession planning process in anticipation of his eventual retirement. A key objective was to develop a broad pool of potential successors and ensure the appointment of the right internal contender.

Key considerations included: 

  • An uncertain timeline for the CEO’s retirement – it was likely to be within 4 years but contingency planning for a shorter timeframe was critical.
  • The incumbent CEO had a strong personality and a significant legacy. This risked skewing the Board’s view of future CEO requirements and meant that he was considered a hard act to follow. Some of the original potential successors had opted out early on in the process.



There were three key phases to the project:

1. Identifying and developing a broad bench of talent. We conducted in-depth assessments with 18 senior leaders to understand the bench strength of the talent pool. Leaders also received stakeholder feedback and individual coaching to accelerate their developmental progress. Three potential CEO successors were identified from this process.

2. Targeted investment in the CEO contenders. We created a bespoke CEO profile of success, aligning the board around the leadership requirements for the business’ next phase. We used the profile to inform intensive development for the three future CEO candidates. This included advisory coaching, regular collection and review of stakeholder feedback and updates to the board on their progress.

In parallel, we used our board engagement tool to surface potential biases and disparities in their knowledge about the candidates. We then developed a targeted plan to enable candidates to gain fair and equal exposure to the board.

3. Assessment and final acceleration period. We conducted rigorous and externally benchmarked assessments of the potential successors against the CEO profile, giving recommendations on readiness and transitional support required.

Following the board’s decision on the chosen successor, we continued to provide coaching and advisory support to aid the successful candidate’s eventual transition and to minimize unwanted turnover of unsuccessful candidates.


  • The client regards YSC as a key partner, valuing the strength of our relationships, our advisory expertise and our passion for their business.
  • The succession process was deemed to be rigorous and fair. The Board reported feeling assured that they had a strong external benchmark, and the right insight, data and support to make a well-informed decision.
  • Acceleration of executive talent was significant; all individuals showed significant growth (average 80% goal mastery achievement) against their behavioral goals.
  • As a measure of our enduring impact, the original scope evolved from assessing just two leadership candidates to becoming a multi-stage, long-term succession project, culminating in the successful appointment of a new CEO who is leading the business through a new phase of growth.

Find out more about CEO Succession with YSC...

CEO succession is not just about an individual role change; it is an opportunity for C-suite development and organizational renewal. Done well, it creates a new phase of growth for the whole enterprise.​