Sunday, December 12, 2010

What qualities to look for in the next Chairman to be ?

What qualities to look for in the next Chairman to be ?

The 35 year old company had gown into several divisions and exported the products to over 98 countries. The current Chairman was nearing 70 and the board wanted a relatively younger team at the top to head the business. With Gen Y constituting the bulk of their consumers, now, it was important for the company to think young.

What should be the qualification criteria for the new management team to be ?

The company invited a seasoned expert from the field of management to address the potential contenders who numbered over 70. What should they look for in the 70 people to decide who to hand over the reins of the company to?

“ If you have a visionary amongst you, then this company will be most safe," began Dr. Patel. He had served on the boards of several Fortune 500 companies and has been an advisor to many a CEO on the art of grooming their successors. “ Let us identify the visionary amongst your aspirants and ascertain the traits do they demonstrate for leadership,” said he.

Foresight: First, do they see the future ahead of the others? Akio Morita, of Sony created the phenomenon of Walkman that revolutionized the Music industry. Eiji Toyoda of Toyota created the luxury of a Mercedes Benz at half the price - Lexus went on to become a legend. Before laying down the office of the Chairman, Soichiro Honda wanted the world’s cleanest car, HONDA CIVIC to be created. Jeff Immelt at GE believed in reducing the energy demanded by airplanes, ships, railroad engines and power plants to 40% what they were consuming then. The consulting house of McKinsey believed in working like a single large family of business they called ‘One firm firm’ with knowledge as being the only differentiator of seniority in the company. The head of Royal Dutch Shell, Arie De Guys, believed in creating everlasting corporation that invented the way it learnt daily.

In India we have Kalaam, the missile man, Kurien, the father of White (milk) revolution, Thomas Thomas, who invented the use of non edible oils to make soap so that millions of kitchens could get an uninterrupted supply of cooking oils. MS Swaminathan helped self sufficiency in food by revolutionizing the way rice is cultivated . Quietly, Rajendra Pawar promoted computer literacy through NIIT and Janak Mehta introduced the TQM Revolution through CII way back in 1988.

All of them had the gift of seeing 20 years and beyond. Does your top team have the power of prophesy, the ability to look beyond? Does your CEO possess it?

Vision: Second, do they believe in something as a core message that needed to be reflected uniquely in every aspect of the offerings of the company, like the corporate signature. For Sony, it was the respect for nature (Mottainai- in Japanese)and miniaturization; everything had to get personalized and pocket sized! For Toyota their ability to grow the pie of the car market by making them cheaper and better was more important than fighting for market share. Environmental friendliness was the theme for Honda. Energy saving in every aspect of life is GE’s motto. Superior thinking was the motto for McKinsey. Corporate longevity was the theme for all of them; they continue to be in the top of Fortune 500 even today and have become timeless legacies for their investors.

The scientific temper promoted by Kalaam is as timeless as the success of cooperative movement among milk producers for Kurien. Indigenous R&D for Thomas was as significant as putting the nation through computer literacy and modern methods of production and management for Pawar and Mehta respectively.

All of them, not only dreamt big but were far ahead of their times. They placed an abiding faith in the power of India to renew itself and gave it one key ingredient to success; they sowed the seed and tended the garden for it to flower and flourish for generations thereafter. Does your CEO have such a message?

Staying power: Whenever any new idea comes, do people like it? No way. There is always entrenched resistance. Yet these people had the singular ability to appeal to the imagination and ignited the passions of the entire generation; inspired them to take on the hardship of change. They took on their successes and failures with the same level of ease as they endeared themselves to their friends and treated their enemies with respect. Charming their way through a crisis that was legitimate, they engaged the mind and spirit of the people to respond to a call to action that was very significant. Does your CEO to be demonstrate such a staying power?

I think as a senior team you will be failing your shareholders if you do not clearly communicate what you are looking for in the next CEO. So communicate first and get all the 70 of them contest of this position openly and fairly. Let each one of them paint a scenario for the future that we are would love to envision and hear about. Let them identify the message that will take us there. May they also demonstrate their tolerance for those who are unable to appreciate the future, by demonstrating the will to carry them along, without denigrating or dispensing with them.

If we found such a person, the current team would have discharged their debt of gratitude to the trust placed on them by the shareholders. Thank you.”

Dr,. Patel sat down having satisfactorily seeded his message for one more time in his illustrious life.


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