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Leadership succession: an approach to filling the pipeline

James Brant (James Brant is President and Managing Partner of James S. Brant Associates, Shelton, CT, USA.)
Rebecca Dooley (Director of Learning and Development at Abbott Vascular, Yorba Linda, California, USA.)
Stephen Iman (Professor at CAL State Poly University, Dana Point, California, USA.)

Strategic HR Review

ISSN: 1475-4398

Article publication date: 20 June 2008




This paper seeks to summarize the development of a systematic approach to assessing executive potential by studying a major medical device manufacturer that aimed at substantially increasing its pipeline of candidates for top executive positions through programs designed to identify and assess high potential leaders.


The study illustrates a range of issues pertinent to developing integrated approaches to succession planning, including identification of criteria suitable to the culture of the organization and its strategic challenges, sound assessment of candidates and integration of program efforts with development needs of high potential managers. The approach developed in the case provided consistent criteria for assessing leadership potential in a global corporation and relied on methods derived from assessment centers.


Events of the case led to the development of systematic and integrated processes promoting succession planning and executive development. The program has been well received by high potential managers and seems to have yielded benefits in retention of top executive talent.

Research limitations/implications

Since program development, 64 percent of candidates nominated with high degrees of confidence have been promoted and 70 percent have experienced either functional or cross‐business‐unit moves – compared with a 20 percent promotion rate and a 38 percent attrition rate for individuals not participating in the process.


The paper discusses the events that led to the development of systematic and integrated processes promoting succession planning and executive development.



Brant, J., Dooley, R. and Iman, S. (2008), "Leadership succession: an approach to filling the pipeline", Strategic HR Review, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 17-24.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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