"Who am I now?"
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Identity research is replete with theories about what identity is, how it is formed, and under what conditions it changes. Nevertheless, the field seems to have neglected to address the underlying question of how identity changes. The current study aims to redress this apparent oversight by developing a process model of identity transition for a founder-CEO who leaves the organization he/ she founded. In doing so the study brings together the seemingly disparate fields of identity and CEO succession research. There is a lack of focus over the effect of the rising CEO turnover on the CEOs themselves after they exit the firm. Furthermore, it is relatively unexplained as to what factors contribute to the re-employment of the CEO and what factors cause such successful individuals to fade off after an exit. Due to the heavy emotional and economic investment in the firm the founder-CEO‘s identity is expected to be strongly derived from their organization. This study takes an identity perspective to understand the underlying mechanisms that aid a founder-CEO in making a transition in their identity once they leave the organization. Applying a Grounded Theory approach to data garnered through semi-structured interviews with CEOs, the current study develops an initial model and generate testable hypotheses. Thereafter these hypotheses are tested through survey questionnaires and the initial model is modified. The results of this study showed that organizational identification predicts the experience of grief upon separation from the organization. Furthermore, grief experienced upon separation negatively impacts the reconstruction of identity by the individual. Entrepreneurial identification seems to moderate this relation, as do the social ties maintained and family involvement. Implications for both organizational research and practice are discussed, and directions for future work are offered.