CEO Succession Case Study:
Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning & Leadership
When Spertus CEO Hal Lewis was ready to identify a successor from top management ranks, Dean Bell stood out as the only one with the unique combination of academic training, administrative skills, and institutional context. But first, they had work to do together to make sure Bell was “camera ready” to be presented to the board as a potential successor.Read the Case Study Now Listen to the Case Study Now
“The hiring of outsiders is often simply the result of a failure to prepare insiders.”
Dean Bell has spent almost his entire professional life at Spertus, gradually building his skills as an academic, an administrator, and most recently, a leader.
Hal Lewis was focused on finding an internal candidate because he had been influenced by research that shows—all things being equal— insider candidates outperform external CEOs.
Over a three year period, Hal Lewis took Dean Bell under his wing; identified areas where Bell needed to develop; and gave him opportunities to “practice leadership” by ceding control of key meetings, stakeholder relationships, and decisions. “I told the executive committee that in three years I would step down, and by that time, I would present to the board a camera-ready successor,” Lewis says.
“My goal was to train someone I thought was capable of being a new leader,” Lewis noted, explaining that he felt committed to making sure his leadership succession was done very much by the book. “In Bell, I could present a qualified internal candidate,” Lewis explains. “That was my job as CEO. What they did from there was the board’s job. Hiring a CEO is the board’s most important job. I made sure to always respect the principles of good governance.”
“Until recently I never would have imagined myself as a CEO.”
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