Prof. Patrick Wright, Director at Centre for Executive Succession, University of South Carolina


Darla Moore School of Business
Thomas C. Vandiver Bicentennial Chair, Professor, Director, Center for Executive Succession


Patrick Wright is Thomas C. Vandiver Bicentennial Chair and founder and faculty director of the Center for Executive Succession in the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. He teaches, conducts research and consults in the area of strategic human resource management. In particular, his research focuses on how firms use people as a source of competitive advantage, changing nature of the chief HR officer role and CEO succession processes. Each year he conducts a survey of Fortune 500 CHROs which gains insights on issues and challenges from the top of the HR house.

Wright has published over 70 research articles in journals, over 20 chapters in books and edited volumes and has co-authored two textbooks and two books on HR practice. He has also served a 3-year term as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Management. 

He has conducted programs or consulted for a number of large organizations. He currently serves as a member on the boards of directors for both the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the National Academy of Human Resources (NAHR). He is a former board member of HRPS, SHRM Foundation and World at Work (formerly American Compensation Association). From 2011 to 2017, he was named by HR Magazine as one of the 20 “Most Influential Thought Leaders in HR.” In 2014, Wright won SHRM’s Michael Losey Award for HR Research and in 2017, he won the Herbert Heneman, Jr. Award for Career Achievement.

What courses do you teach?

Human Resource and Business Strategy (MGMT 726), 
Special Topics Doctoral Seminar on Human Resources (BADM 790)

Why should a student take your class? How does your class help students become employable?

My class brings multiple chief HR officers in to share how HR drives value for firms. Students learn strategy models and tools but focus on applying them to real organizations in order to understand how HR can contribute to organizational success. So the class gives them the foundation for the tools and perspectives they need to reach the pinnacle of HR success in their careers.

What do you research? What kind of projects are you working on?

I conduct a survey of Fortune 500 CHROs every year, which gains insights on issues and challenges from the top of the HR house. In addition, I am now working on interviewing CEOs about the challenges they faced in their first year in the role and how they handled those challenges.

How do your research projects make a difference?

My research is based in finding out what senior executives and board members face as they seek to build the talent pipeline for the C-suite. It is based in real world examples and entails getting very candid and confidential information about what really goes on in CEO succession. Getting accurate information about what really goes on behind the scenes helps to identify potential pitfalls to avoid and best practices to follow so that boards are better at choosing the next CEO.

Briefly describe a few of your current projects.

We just finished exploring the extent to which CEOs can be described as narcissistic and the negative outcomes that are associated with those who are. We also interviewed members of large companies’ boards of directors about where boards can go wrong in CEO succession as well as the CHRO’s role in the succession process.

How do you involve students in your projects?

One or more Ph.D. students help design and conduct the survey of CHROs every year as well as write up the technical reports. Masters in HR students sit in on the confidential interviews we do with board members and CEOs, transcribing the notes. In both cases, they get an insider’s perspective on the phenomenon we are exploring.

What inspires you about your work?

It is a perfect fit with my worldview. I believe that humanity is imprinted with the imageo dei but is fallen and broken. I get to study and teach about how organizations can leverage the value and worth of people while simultaneously restoring them from their brokenness. And through doing this, I get to impact students, organizations and the people who work in them.

What are you doing when you’re not working?

Spending time with my family, working with college students through Shandon Baptist Church’s college ministry, running, working out or traveling.


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