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Why Hire an Interim CEO?

March 15, 2019

Did your current CEO suddenly depart? An interim CEO can help your organization get back on track for success. Learn more about the benefits of hiring an interim CEO.

Did your Chief Executive Officer suddenly depart? Need someone to steady the ship during this transition period? An interim CEO could be the temporary leader your organization needs.

What is an interim CEO?

An interim CEO is an individual appointed by an organization’s board of directors to assume the role of chief executive officer as a result of the sudden absence of the previous CEO. Whether your previous leader has abruptly left or needs to be replaced, the change will impact your workforce, clients, partners and others. A skilled interim CEO helps your organization lay the groundwork for the next leader’s success…in a variety of ways.


An experienced interim CEO will come in with….

  1. An analytical mind and an unbiased view of your organization. Interim executives can assess the organization objectively and reassure stakeholders that ideas and tactics they implement are not subject to internal or external political influences.
  2. Ability to respond to crises - An executive’s departure can cause a great deal of anxiety among employees, who often find themselves thrown into new ways of working, unsure of what the future may hold. Experienced interim CEOs have been successfully steering operations through tough challenges for years, meaning they know how to respond to crises in the most cost effective, efficient, and least disruptive ways. An interim CEO can step in and calm emotions, boost morale and give the board time to consider the organization’s goals and what type of executive they need to move them in the right direction.
  3. Transition experience- An experienced interim CEO has multiple transition experiences under his/her belt, so he/she knows what works and what doesn’t. Interim CEOs can focus on operational aspects of the company and leave the major strategic decisions to the permanent CEO.
  4. New leadership style- Hiring an interim CEO allows an organization to “try on” a new leadership style. A leader’s management style becomes woven into an organization’s culture overtime, which has its advantages and disadvantages. Your organization, for example, might be used to the way your prior CEO works, including poor organization, tendency to micromanage, volatility etc. An interim CEO gives your organization the opportunity to have a fresh take on management.
  5. Ability to prioritize - Interim CEOs can converse with your staff and the board to get a better sense of what they know and don’t know, which will help the organization determine board and staff development priorities. This will also help the organization determine whether their next leader could potentially be hired from within.

When is the right time to hire an interim CEO?

Do you remember the Equifax data breach? In a nutshell, names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers of around 143 million consumers were stolen. Their CEO stepped down after the breach due to criticism on how he handled the attack. The board elected an interim CEO to step in and handle the crisis management and strategize on an action plan to resolve the problem. This situation required immediate management, hence their need for an interim leader.

For nonprofits, hiring the wrong person into senior leadership can be damaging and costly. Few nonprofits have the strength to function with a key position vacant. Take the experience of a large nonprofit in Boston for instance- A few years ago, they found that the environment around them was rapidly changing and their organization couldn’t keep up. Though they took steps to develop a new strategic framework and plan, they quickly found themselves in need of someone to coordinate the necessary operational and cultural changes…and fast. That’s where the interim executive came in.

Their interim leader worked with the senior staff to…

  • Hire and integrate other key leaders
  • Coach and train existing staff to prepare them for the new environment
  • Create new management structures and models
  • Help the organization become more integrated
  • Help employees work together more effectively across functions and departments.

By the time the organization hired a permanent executive, the organization had moved through the most disruptive phase of its business transition with the interim leader. Hence the new executive was able to focus on creating a new business plan for an organization now in a better place to serve its clients effectively.

An interim CEO’s main goal is to achieve sustainable results as quickly as he/she can, using his/her past experiences and leadership abilities. An experienced interim CEO can help your organization get back on its feet and on track for success.

Want to learn more about the benefits of interim CEOs? Contact us.

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