Offering CEOs big money to come and run companies does not guarantee great leadership. In fact, the practice may attract the wrong leaders altogether.
With banks failing, the auto-industry a mess and Steve Jobs returning to work after his secretive liver transplant, it's a good time to raise the subject of succession again.
Wall Street was quite upset that Apple was so close to the vest about Jobs's health. And well they should be -- the last time Jobs left in 1985, the company slumped and didn't re-emerge as the powerhouse they are now until Jobs returned to the helm a decade later. But Jobs's health is irrelevant. Cancer or new livers aside, the fact is he can't lead the company forever and knowing how to find a good leader to succeed him is important.
But Apple is just one of many succession conundrums. Many of the banks are sailing rudderless into the future as are companies like AIG, Chrysler and GM. Rick Wagoner, for example, was ousted from GM for mismanaging the company, only to be replaced by a man who, well, let's just say he's not much of an inspiring leader. And given the desperate need for real leadership these days, there is an ongoing debate in boardrooms and on Capitol Hill about how much we should pay these leaders for their contributions.
The argument is that companies cannot attract the best leaders, the leaders they need, unless they are very well compensated. And that, believe it or not, is actually the problem. The flaw in the logic is that the best leaders do it for the money, which they don't. Great leaders show up for the challenge or the cause. The bad leaders show up for the money.
Instead of finding someone with an impressive resume who is willing to help if you pay him or her enough, imagine if the Obama administration made this appeal:
The recent economic melt-down has taught us a valuable lesson -- that the way we did things in the past is not the way we can do things in the future. We may have enjoyed the short term riches of the past decade or more, but we have done so by weakening the very foundations of our corporations and indeed our economy.
Now is the time for change. Now is the time for new ideas and new leaders to emerge to rebuild our economy and our nation so that we may, once again, be the beacon of how a great free market economy should run.
We are looking for the men and woman who want to help shape the corporations of the future and help build the new American economy. The salary will not be big. The challenge will be great. And the opportunity to influence the future of our county is real.
Are you up for the challenge? If so, please contact President Obama and tell him you want to lead.
Such an appeal does not mean that prior experience is ignored, it just means it is considered second to the leaders desire to help. If a leader shows up for the cause, they will work with blood, sweat and tears and they will inspire those around them to do the same. If the leader does not believe in the cause, then they will work for the money. The very fact that got us into this mess in the first place.
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