Ready for the Unthinkable

By Rian M. Yaffe and Alexander C. Yaffe

An emergency succession plan may never be used, but it’s still a necessity for every hospital

A key function of every board is to ensure that effective leadership is in place so that the institution it governs can continue to achieve its mission, vision and strategic goals. But what happens if there is an unexpected leadership vacuum due to the chief executive’s untimely death in a car accident or because of a heart attack? What does the board have to accomplish the next morning?

Having a crisis management plan for an unplanned CEO vacancy should be on every board’s short list. Two-thirds of all hospital CEOs are 55 or older, according to a recent executive compensation survey, and 40 percent of CEOs are 60 or older. With an aging CEO population, hospitals and their boards not only should have in place a succession plan for typical leadership transitions, but also an emergency plan that covers contingencies resulting from an unexpected vacancy in the CEO position.

The goal of a crisis succession plan is to ensure continuity in leadership with as little disruption as possible.

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