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The Forbes CEO Next List: 2022

Of all the talent wars being fought across corporate America, few are as tough as the battle to find a great CEO. With the accelerating pace of change and increased demands on leaders, the metrics for success have become more complicated.

And yet, as our second annual CEO Next list shows, the next generation of contenders to lead America’s largest companies is looking strong. They have lived and led through booms and busts, financial meltdowns and periods of prosperity, transformative innovation and a pandemic that has shifted the way we work and live. They are diverse, although diversifying the top ranks of business remains frustratingly slow. And they embrace the human side of leadership as few of their predecessors ever had to do.

We surveyed top recruiters, executive coaches, consultants and the Forbes newsroom to create this year’s list of 50 leaders who look poised to step into large-company CEO jobs. Some are clear contenders within their own company—a common path in a year when fewer than 19% of new CEO hires have been external candidates, according to Crist Kolder Associates, versus more than 30% in 2019. Others are entrepreneurs who are disrupting from within, or are in C-suite roles that have not typically been a stepping stone to the CEO job. (To understand why, read our look at what skills and backgrounds boards demand now.)

What unites the executives on this list is that their accomplishments and talent are being noticed by those who have built their careers and reputations on finding and working with the CEOs of tomorrow. Nobody applied to be on the list; for some, it may be a recognition they’d prefer to do without. This list doesn’t capture the visionary founders or people leading small businesses, nor does it recognize the leaders from our inaugural list who have only gotten stronger.

We focused on those deemed likely to lead large U.S. companies because that role comes with a particular power and responsibility. The behemoths of business have the scale and reach to impact millions of lives, for good and for ill. How those leaders choose to make their products, treat their people and manage their operations can set a new gold standard for accountability, sustainability and success—or undermine trust, prosperity and the planet.

For the past two years, many boards and chief executives have been focused on steering their companies through a global pandemic and rising inflation, lowering turnover in the corner office. But as those storms begin to calm, the succession rate is picking up again—making way for another generation. (See our exclusive look at new CEO succession data here.) Here are 50 contenders many experts feel are well positioned to navigate the rough waters ahead.



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