We examine how leadership transition affects firm performance in emerging economies. Building upon the social embeddedness and neo-institutional perspectives, we argue for the importance of alignment between successor origin and social context for firm performance. We suggest that as a baseline outside successors enhance firm profitability because of the large-scale and rapid changes in emerging markets. However, this outsider premium is reduced in firms embedded in family and business group relationships, where family and inside successors can better access network resources. But the outsider premium is amplified in firms embedded in a mature market-based logic, such as high tech or foreign invested firms, because the perceived legitimacy of outsiders facilitates resource acquisition. Our arguments are supported through the analysis of Taiwanese listed firms between 1996 and 2005. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.