Succession Planning – a lost art?

For years I have watched with equal doses of horror and awe while many of the world’s most respected and successful companies continue to make interesting choices for the head job of CEO.  Specifically, today, I am referring to Hewlett-Packard, and their most recent choice to appoint another outsider to lead the company. This is the 3rd consecutive leader they have brought in from outside to become CEO. I am not the only one that is scratching their head, Jack Welch, famed CEO of General Electric, recently piped his dismay as well. This brief article is worth a read – as his insights are spot on; and frankly, address an issue not unique to Hewlett-Packard. Relative to this particular decision, over 75% of the readers of this particular article agreed that this most recent decision was not the right one.

What has happened to grooming talent within the rank and file of a company? What is the appeal of hiring outsiders when there clearly is talent within the executive ranks of a company? What has happened to a Board sincerely and passionately developing leaders for the next generation of the company?

While Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were alive and still at the helm, not a single CEO or senior leader was brought in from the outside to run a substantial piece of the business, much less the entire company. This was not because they were not open to outside talent, opinion, perspective, and competitive knowledge, as they certainly did actively recruit new blood to join the company. However, it was because they had spent considerable time, effort, energy, and interest in building talent within their own teams. When they were ready to retire, they had their choice of individuals from whom to choose.

What is happening to senior and board leadership’s lack of interest and focus to groom new leaders? This is an issue many companies need to face head on! Leadership within the ranks of any company, school, or organization is the single greatest asset we have – and our strongest competitive differentiator.

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