Steve Ballmer of Microsoft announced his “retirement” last week. No heir apparent, and some locals here in Silicon Valley are on pundit lists.
Arab Spring—no success or succession so far for most of the countries involved. Dysfunction prevails. Tunisia, Libya and especially Egypt are in turmoil, and the wretched Assad regime in Syria is killing its own people in an attempt to stay in power. And there is Zimbabwe, where a nearly 90 year old politician was re—elected under dubious election circumstances, after running the country into the ground in the last 30+ years.
Lives are at stake and have been lost along the Mediterranean Sea and Africa. Finding a replacement for Ballmer is kid’s play by comparison.
Still, there is lesson that has gone on for eons and never seems to be learned by many in leadership positions:
Who will succeed you? Or at least how will your organization find an orderly process to find your successor?
Not that long ago, HP brought in Carly Fiorina to take the helm there, poorly vetted and a disaster as HP CEO. Meg Whitman, HP’s current CEO, to her credit brought John Donaho in to succeed her at EBay, and it went pretty smoothly. Eric, Larry and Sergi seem to understand at Google how important this is. Facebook? Don’t know.
My larger point is when a regime, be it a country or a company of substance, is in transition, many incumbent leaders seem to lack an ability to look beyond their tenure and think about the best interests of shareholders, customers, employees, let alone citizens.
I certainly don’t have a good prescription for this—well beyond my pay grade, and there are plenty of very smart folks who spend their time thinking about this.
It is Shakespearian and the Bard only presented the dilemmas, not the resolutions.
There is more than a small bit of melancholy about leaders who do not know how to find their successors.