Last week United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz suffered a heart attack and was placed on medical leave just five weeks after he was appointed to the Company’s highest office, replacing his predecessor who stepped down over a federal investigation. On no one’s list of succession was the General Counsel, who was suddenly, and surprisingly named interim CEO with Munoz on the sidelines.

United’s experience is a bit extreme, but who knows how fate will turn events and create a succession issue. Most companies are ill prepared for the sudden departure of a CEO or other senior executive. More often than not, succession planning is an afterthought, or not even considered with executives viewing the process as a threat to their role with someone designated as “in line” to take the helm.

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