Corporate boards of directors are increasingly reaching down below the second layer of management to name new chief executive officers. By accelerating the promotion of these executives, boards hope that the new CEOs’ ability to understand and act upon signals in today’s unpredictable environment will more than offset their relative inexperience.
Many of these new CEOs were only in their thirties when they were appointed. Marissa Mayer was 37 when Yahoo! named her CEO. She had been a vice president at Google. Burger King selected 33-year-old Daniel Schwartz to be CEO even though he had only three years of fast-food experience. The board of Electronic Arts passed over two older internal candidates to name Andrew Wilson, 39 at the time, as CEO.
Corporate boards seem increasingly willing to appoint CEOs who are relatively unseasoned but forward-looking executives. The success of such fast-track promotions relies heavily on a rigorous CEO-readiness program.