Choosing a new CEO is rarely an easy or straightforward task. During periods of change, board members tend to reach for certainties. They want to know that the candidate they choose has the experience and charisma needed to chart a profitable course for the business, create an effective company structure, and instill a positive culture. As a result, they often gravitate towards current or past CEOs or business unit leaders. However, board members can overlook a potentially promising candidate — their current CFO.

The pick might seem unlikely. CFOs can be stereotyped as inwardly focused and concentrated on accounting and capital structure. Unlike most other  CEO candidates, financial officers rarely have the chance to distinguish themselves as strategic decision-makers before the company board. Due to this dynamic, many otherwise qualified CFOs don’t stand out in the interview lineup as clear picks for a CEO position.

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