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Why Succession Planning is bad for your health

October 14, 2010 Leave a comment

The Economist is facetiously comparing the disciplined succession-planning process in North Korea with the shambolic one found in many corporations. The cause, of course, is not a lack of focus by Boards as they claim: the real reason CEOs don’t like to designate successors is if you do so, you immediately create someone with a vested interest in seeing you fail.

Every time you vest a lucrative stock option, your successor shifts uncomfortably in his seat, thinking ‘that should have been me.’ Each time you make a strategic gaffe, his darkly plotting heart leaps in the hope that you drive the company over a cliff so he can step in and cover himself in glory by rescuing the mothership from your geriatric incompetence.

As a CEO, make no mistake: your designated successor spends his evening patiently sharpening the knife he shall someday plunge gleefully into your back. Don’t be fooled by the polite deference he displays in public: he would love nothing more than to lace your coffee with arsenic. He has nothing to lose and all to gain by your destruction.

So the next time your Board suggests you nominate a successor, point at North Korea and say to them: The Economist suggests that nominating my son is best practice. May I? That should put an end to that tiresome initiative.

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