AESC Membership

Ward Howell is a founding member of the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants.

Ward Howell is a founding member of AESC and commits to the AESC Code of Professional Practice
and Standards of Excellence. Members choose to exceed both industry norms and client expectations, because the imprimatur of AESC demands that members are the most ethical, rigorous, and transparent firms in the profession. AESC Members are committed to the highest professional practices, acting in the best interests of their clients, candidates, the community-at-large, and our profession. Our Code of Professional Practice applies equally to executive search and leadership consulting. Where standards specifically address executive search, that is indicated. Otherwise, these standards govern all consulting work conducted by our members as they strive every day to be trusted advisors for their clients.

Executives can access career resources at BlueSteps, the executive career management service of AESC.


Since 1959, the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC) has set the quality standard for the executive search and leadership consulting profession. Its members are the leaders in executive talent and leadership advisory solutions.

Largely starting as a by-product of management consulting, the executive search profession has since grown into a global consulting industry with annual revenues of $14 billion. The profession has paralleled major trends in business and, to this day, few major organizations needing to fill a key position in their management ranks do so without considering the engagement of an executive search firm.

Executive search consultants realized early that they would benefit from an association that would enable them to set ethical and professional standards, advocate for the industry and for member firms against restrictive legislation and broaden public understanding of their business.

AESC was founded in 1959 as the Association of Executive Recruiting Consultants (AERC) for the dual purposes of creating a professional association for the most competent and reputable search firms, and for providing clients and prospective clients a means by which to differentiate qualified and ethical practitioners in the profession. Early leaders of the association included Spencer Stuart, Ward Howell, Russell Reynolds, Sid Boyden and Gardner Heidrick, founders of many of today’s leading firms. In 1982 the organization changed its name to the Association of Executive Search Consultants and later to the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants in 2014 to better reflect the consulting elements in members’ work.

In 2004 AESC adopted a new governance structure whereby three regional councils elect five representatives to sit on its international board. The Board deals with operational matters and strategy in collaboration with staff and AESC Members at large. AESC’s governance provides a framework for an association representing a global industry. Today, AESC Members range in size from large global firms and networks to boutique firms spanning more than 70 countries.