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BW Businessworld

Cut Some Slack For The New CEO

Let’s give some breather to the new CEO. Let her / him settle down and reshape the organisation into what (s)he believes will be sustainable advantage. Unless the person’s performance slackens, cut her / him some slack !

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It’s always lonely at the top.

Except when you just get to the top or when you leave the position. That’s when the entire world has an opinion on you, what you do, what you should not do, what could have done in addition, and so on.

When you are the new leader, your hobbies will be dissected with prejudices and assumptions, sharper than a surgeon’s knife.

Your academic scores suddenly will become more relevant as a researcher will pick it up and the editorial will carry the “expert opinion” from someone who claims to be your neighbour’s third cousin who knew from your childhood, that you were destined to be the best leader, ever.

Your food preferences will suddenly become a nation interest and if you are really popular, might trend in top 10 google-searches of the day ! Your culinary expertise will be more critically examined than your credit assessment competence.

As a society, we confuse reverence with irrelevance. Well, we love to make larger-than-life personalities. And sadly, we also hold the power to set false expectations and destroy our own image of those individuals. It is a reflection of a society on how it treats high profile business leaders. As a society, we love Demi-god status to be bestowed. At the cost of sounding harsh, “Are we servile ?”.

A CEO is the leader of her / his organisation. Accolades, brickbats, adulation, criticism are part of the position. Something that’s not hard coded into the employment contract. Some leaders use it well to hone their image to show themselves as “Midas touch”. Some of them let their own image run faster than public perception or their achievements. Very few and many unsung (s)heroes have walked in those big CEO-shoes and yet retained their natural personalities and shown that titles / position are temporary and cannot take away their humility.

It is unfair to compare achievements of different generations, as struggles and opportunities differed. Similar is corporate world when it comes to leadership succession. Challenges and opportunities would be very different for the new leader. Let us not make the mistake of measuring the new CEO with same yardstick that applied for the previous. Sometimes a new CEO appointment also indicates that warring or sparring factions have made peace, hopefully for longer time.

It is essential the old (meaning “previous” @ also indicates “age”) leader also show that (s)he walks away when the retirement party is hosted. Let the old guard not meddle and have an opinion on the new leader’s style.

It’s easy to shoot from someone’s shoulder. Many a times, the media world has fallen (silent) prey by allowing competitors / detractors / jealous colleagues to use them to shoot criticism and uncalled-for judgements at a new leader.

Yes, as every succession has shown in corporate world, some of the ex-peers of the newly anointed one, will choose to seek new companies to lead. Let us hard code this understanding - such a departure is not a reflection on the new leader. It is simple human tendency to accept that there is no leadership role in the old company and to look elsewhere to move.

The new leader has to be given time and space to settle into the role. Hopefully (s)he won’t make the mistake of copying the textbook leadership formula of the previous leader or succumb to those who favoured her / him for the role. The world will watch how the new leader shapes the organisation for it’s next leap of growth, profitably and consistently. Especially when the challenges are far-greater. Until the next big mistake, the world will sadly compare the new leader with the previous leader, for every action and step taken. Unwanted but someone needs to fill print columns and gossip chatter.

Let’s give some breather to the new CEO. Let her / him settle down and reshape the organisation into what (s)he believes will be sustainable advantage. Unless the person’s performance slackens, cut her / him some slack !

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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ceo leaders

Srinath Sridharan

The author is Independent Markets Commentator

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