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Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis is University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Business at the University of Southern California. His newest book is 'Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership.'

New leaders come from within

Q: The ongoing privacy controversy at Facebook raises the familiar dilemma of what to do when fast-growing startups threaten to outgrow the management abilities of creative young founders. The Google guys got kudos for bringing in industry veteran Eric Schmidt as CEO, but things didn't work out as well when Pepsi's John Sculley took the reins from a young Steve Jobs at Apple. What's the leadership wisdom here?

There are three general and related "laws" that make the difference between success and failure in selecting a new leader. The first is: Most failures happen when the new leader is selected from outside the firm or even the industry. John Sculley is a splendid example. He was basically a finance guy from a totally different business sector, Pepsi. When he returned to Wall Street after his short spell at Apple, he did exceedingly well.

The second law flows from the first: "Fit." Sculley was a talented leader but he was SO not Silicon Valley. Finally, the chances of predicting success are extremely low, given the surprising challenges -- think BP oil disaster -- the new hire will face. The executive search firm's job description can only be remotely related to the unscripted realities facing the new leader. So, play it safe and follow laws 1 and 2: Go inside and make sure the fit is right.

By Warren Bennis

 |  June 8, 2010; 6:40 AM ET
Category:  Corporate leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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