The Cultural Impact of a CEO Transition: A Practitioner Perspective and a Call for Further Research

By J. Mike Stice and Michael J. Marquardt.

Published by The Organization Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper addresses the impact that a CEO transition has on organizational culture. In many of the scholarly writings to date (Barnard, 1938; Ouchi & Wilkins, 1985; Schein, 1999), organizational culture is deemed to be highly resistant to change and incapable of radical and rapid change. This paper is written from a practitioner’s perspective and offers an alternative view by connecting the findings of authors’ combined experience to the scholarly writings on organizational culture, leadership and change. More specifically, the creation of a theoretical framework is presented to explain these connections and to provide some insights to scholars and practitioners on the impact that changing leadership behavior at the CEO level has on organizational culture. Challenging some of the mainstream thinking on organizational culture, the authors concludes that a shift in different leadership behaviors at the top often results in profound and rapid change in the organizational culture. This paper develops the relationship between leadership and culture by focusing on cultural change that results from a change in CEO. The paper draws upon the expanded conversation of Weisbord (1987), and Gersick (1991) for a comprehensive understanding of how planned, punctuated change impacts the organization as a whole and relies on Burns (1978), Bass (1990) and Yukl (2002) to help us understand the role leaders play in shaping organizational culture. The conclusions point to the need for further study on the proposed resilient nature of organizational culture and reinforce the notion that cultural change is punctuated rather than gradual and continuous.

Keywords: Culture, Leadership, Change

International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp.165-172. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 635.924KB).

J. Mike Stice

President, ConocoPhillips Qatar, Upstream, George Washington University, Doha, Qatar

The author has 27 years experience in a multi-national energy company working a large portion of that career in international assignments. The educational background includes a BS ChE from the University of Oklahoma (1981), an MS in Business from Stanford University, an International Company Director’s Diploma from Queensland University, and is currently pursuing his doctorate degree in education at The George Washington University.

Michael J. Marquardt

Human and Organizational Learning, George Washington University, USA

Dr. Michael Marquardt is Professor of Human Resource Development and International Affairs as well as Program Director of Overseas Programs at George Washington University. Mike also serves as President of the World Institute for Action Learning. e has held a number of senior management, training and marketing positions with organizations such as Grolier, American Society for Training and Development, Association Management Inc., Overseas Education Fund, TradeTec, and U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Mike is the author of 18 books and over 90 professional articles in the fields of leadership, learning, globalization and organizational change including Leading with Questions, Building the Learning Organization (selected as Book of the Year by the Academy of HRD), Action Learning in Action, Global Leaders for the 21st Century, Global Human Resource Development, Technology-Based Learning, and Global Teams. Over one million copies of his publications have been sold in nearly a dozen languages worldwide. Dr. Marquardt’s achievements and leadership have been recognized though numerous awards including the International Practitioner of the Year Award from the American Society for Training and Development.


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