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Marty Linsky
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Marty Linsky

Co-founder of the leadership-focused consulting firm, Cambridge Leadership Associates, Marty Linsky teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School, co-authors the advice column, Leadership House Call and blogs at Linsky on Leadership .

Hard To Say Good-bye

Being the CPO, Chief Personnel Officer, is what the job of being CEO is all about. This is hardly my idea. Talk to Jack Welch or Les Wexner, both of whom sing this song. So Whisenhunt was doing was he was paid to do: Pick and manage personnel. In the NFL, for every Warner who makes the Super Bowl, there is a Vinny Testaverde, Wally Moon, or this year, Brett Favre, who should have rested on their considerable laurels, rather than give it another go.

Actually in our consulting work, we find the Warner-opposite trend to be more prevalent in both corporate and non-profit organizational life: People staying on long after they are productive, and the new CEO or senior management team not having the heart -- or the courage -- to put them out to pasture where they belong, frustrating the young Turks who have to share profits and power with people who are no longer pulling their weight and whose continued presence creates a glass ceiling for younger more competent successors.

Now in my own dotage, I myself am facing those issues in both of my professional organizational affiliations, at the Harvard Kennedy School and at my firm, Cambridge Leadership Associates. My continued presence in both places is both a (diminishing) resource and a barrier to the growth and development of my colleagues. But it is likely that they will have to kick me out before I leave on my own, and, after the stock market tanking, I might well buy the ranch on the job. And as long as I can add some value by doing my thing over and over again, they will be reluctant to show me the door, whether or not I have lost a step or two -- or more -- and my spirals do not go as far or as straight as in the old days.

One of my favorite definitions of leadership is making yourself dispensable. How many Members of the US House or, worse, the US Senate, have succession plans? Farewell Bobby Byrd and Frank Lautenberg? Hawaii's US Senate delegation averages 84 years old (that's a trick statistic - they are both 84)! How many VP of Fortune 500s have mentored and nurtured people who can do their jobs better than they can do them themselves? How many NFL quarterbacks have taken satisfaction in sharing their wisdom with their replacements before they were forced to do so? In most professional realms, non-succession plans seem to be a bigger problem than failing to recognize that there is still some life in the old folks.

I am happy for Warner and Whisenhunt. I have always been addicted to rooting for underdogs and on top of that now, no surprise, I am especially partial to old underdogs. Hope they beat those young'uns from Steelertown.

By Marty Linsky

 |  January 25, 2009; 11:21 PM ET
Category:  Sports Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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