The Role and Impact of an Interim CEO

Leadership Advisory

Your long-term permanent CEO retired, transferred to another organization, or left the industry. Whatever the reason for the executive’s departure may be, your organization is left without a chief executive officer and in dire need of leadership.

An interim chief executive officer holds the fort in the organization while you look for a new permanent CEO.

The process of finding a new CEO can endure much longer than one first expects, and an organization will need the crisis management skills and expertise of an experienced interim CEO during this transition period.

An interim CEO can ensure the gears of the business keep turning, and the status quo is maintained so you can focus on hiring, onboarding, and training a new chief executive officer who can effectively fill the position long-term.

What is an Interim CEO?

If for whatever reason, the position of CEO becomes vacant, it makes sense to start looking for a permanent, long-term chief executive officer. However, finding executive talent and onboarding a new CEO can be an extended process.

While this process is ongoing, an organization will significantly benefit from an interim executive officer that can step into this position immediately and meet the high demand for leadership skills.

Interim executives are regarded as valuable crisis management tools to provide stabilization for senior staff as they attempt to retain organization and order in a confusing transition period.

The primary responsibility of an interim CEO, among other interim CEO roles, is to focus on sustaining the organization’s goals and values and keeping all current projects and initiatives on track. The interim CEO must collaborate with tenured directors and board members to keep the company functioning optimally while the search for a new executive officer continues.

When Are Interim Executives Necessary?

Whether the departure of your CEO is unexpected or planned, interim CEOs play an essential role in ensuring the organization has the leadership it needs to reach its goals and thrive in the future.

The following cases describe instances where interim CEOs are required:

Managing the Unplanned Departure of a CEO

A CEO may have to leave an organization unexpectedly for various reasons. The absence of a dedicated CEO combined with the lack of a sure successor can be an exceptionally nerve-wracking time, and an experienced interim CEO can alleviate that stress to a great extent.

A competent Interim CEO can fulfill the responsibilities of the position and ensure the status quo of the organization is maintained until the board of directors finds a permanent CEO.

Brief Leadership Requirements

When changes in the direction of an organization are required, the company’s current CEO may not possess the necessary skill set to execute the transition seamlessly. Additionally, an upcoming transition in the organization may require the current CEO to step down.

In such instances, an interim CEO can bridge the gap and offer the leadership skills the organization requires on a short-term basis. An appropriate example of this includes hiring a qualified interim CEO to take on the responsibility of leading an exit strategy when a company is sold.

Hiring an interim CEO can thus be regarded as a way of generating desirable results for an organization. Whether they are simply fulfilling this role until a permanent executive steps in on a permanent basis, facilitating the duties of the current CEO, or preparing to become the organization’s permanent CEO, interim CEOs are exceptionally valuable for every company to achieve success.

What Are the Types of Interim Chief Executive Officers?

An interim CEO takes many forms depending on the need of an organization. One business may be in need of a highly engaged interim leader, while another may require the person in the interim role to serve as a manager and oversee the daily operations of the employees.

The duration that an organization would need an interim CEO largely determines the type of interim the company will need to hire.

  • Interim Executives step into interim CEO positions for between two months and a year.
  • Interim-to-Hire executives fill the CEO position immediately while the company searches for a more permanent candidate.
  • Fractional Executives are hired for this position on a long-term basis, although it is not a full-time position.
  • Project Executives step into a position to offer their specialized expertise for the purpose of helping companies solve a particular problem.
The Role and Impact of an Interim CEO

Benefits of Hiring a Qualified Interim CEO

As the CEO handles countless duties, an interim CEO must fulfill this position to the highest possible standard and be involved in everything from business development and finance to human resources and marketing.

A qualified and competent interim CEO will step into the role with the following attributes:

An unbiased perspective and analytical mind – Interim CEOs can evaluate the state and operations of the organization objectively and report back to shareholders without the involvement of political influences.

The ability to manage a crisis – The departure of a permanent executive often leads to a great deal of anxiety among employees. They may feel unsure about daily operations and what the future of the organization holds. Competent interim CEOs are highly beneficial in mitigating disruptions and ensuring the business stays on track. An interim CEO can bring a calm and controlled atmosphere to the workplace and serve as a director while the board members decide on a permanent solution.

The ability to navigate the transitions – An experienced interim CEO has undergone several transitions in companies and is familiar with the ins and outs of organizational change. They can focus on the operations of the company and alleviate some of the stress associated with transitions.

Introducing a new leadership style – When an organization hires an interim CEO, it allows them to test a new leadership style and see its results. A CEO will adopt a management style that conforms to the dynamics of the organization over time. Although this is valuable, a company may need a change of pace every so often. If an organization isn’t performing optimally, an interim CEO’s new way of leading and managing may be the best thing to happen to the organization.

The ability to prioritize – Interim CEOs can collaborate with other board members and employees to discover the areas they are well-versed in and those they are not. Such interactions can help the board determine which areas in the organization should be prioritized. It will also facilitate the process of identifying desirable qualities in the leader they will hire next.

Other Interim Positions

Every C-suit employee plays a significant role in the success of a corporation. The board of directors may hire interim COOs and various types of interim professionals to fill their empty seats and ensure the maintenance of the organization’s value for shareholders.

Some other key executive positions companies may need to fill at times include the following:

  • Interim CFO (Interim Chief Financial Officer)
  • Interim CMO (Interim Marketing Officer)
  • Interim COO (Interim Chief Operating Officer)