On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti


If succession planning was the NBA draft

To snatch Jack Lew away from the State Department to run the Office of Management and Budget, President Obama joked Tuesday, he had to "trade a number of Number One draft picks."

A favorite of Hillary Clinton's, Lew, who Obama chose to succeed departing director Peter Orszag, is so admired for his experience running OMB during her husband's presidency that he apparently required bargaining for his release. For now, at least, no one has been named to replace him.

If only succession at government agencies worked like the NBA draft. Imagine, for a moment, that such a process existed outside sports. Federal managers, corporate executives and nonprofit leaders could fill their open spots by picking from a pool of the most talented candidates in the country. Except in rare cases, the candidate couldn't say no for a better offer--instead, they're bound to work in the job they're given. And filling the role would happen in a meticulously planned fashion, albeit with plenty of pomp, circumstance and money to go along with it.

In most organizations, filling leaders' jobs is a messy, poorly planned affair. One of the most important jobs of any manager--filling his bench with the best possible team players at all times--often gets short shrift. Whether due to denial, work overload, or a shortage of the right talent (yes, it does still exist despite double-digit unemployment), succession planning rarely gets the attention it needs, even when jobs go begging.

While government and business leaders will never have a finely tuned draft that gives them their pick of their field's best and brightest, they can learn a thing or two from Obama's quip. Setting up a detailed system everyone adheres to is the best way to insure there's always fresh talent in the pipeline. And getting the right people into the right jobs is worth all the internal compromise and bargaining it takes.

And, my notes on some developing leadership stories I'm following:

Reception problem at Apple? Bloomberg's Peter Burrows is reporting that Apple's senior antenna expert raised concerns to CEO Steve Jobs early in the design process of the iPhone 4. Ouch. If the Apple leader's response to customers was to "just avoid holding it in that way," one has to wonder what he might have said to his employee. Leading by the "it's not me, it's you" approach, after all, isn't usually a recipe for success.

Obama is losing by winning, Politico reports. The gist of this story--that Obama has accomplished plenty, yet is seen by many as a failure--is phenomenon many leaders know well.

We're in the money: The Corporate Library is revealing that the 10 companies with the largest mega-stock grants in 2009 included Sprint Nextel, Ford and Starbucks.

Such massive grants, the governance research firm reports, do little to incent CEOs who see huge windfalls from minor moves in the market. For instance, coffee king Howard Schultz stood to gain $250,000 from his mega-grant when the Seattle coffee company's shares rose by just $0.10. No word on how much he gets from raising the price of a latte the same.

By Jena McGregor

 |  July 15, 2010; 4:24 AM ET |  Category:  Succession planning Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: AIG's Harvey Golub: Is leaving good leadership? | Next: Weekend reads: At last, a leadership app?


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Well, one thing Democrats can be assured of. If an NBA or NFL style draft were set up in the Federal government, or elsewhere outside of these sports, it would take our nation one step closer to the socialist utopia they seek.

In the NBA and the NFL, the team with the worst record picks first. And the team with the best record picks last. So, teams who are inept, are rewarded, while teams who display excellence are punished. And there is no more apt a description of Socialism than that.

Posted by: Indpnt1 | July 16, 2010 12:28 PM

Kwame Brown????

Posted by: lrmc623 | July 16, 2010 9:31 AM

NBA draft vs political hiring.

Let's see.... every aspect of an NBA players skill set is analyzed to the limits of science.

speed, leap, endurance, stamina, explosiveness, strength.... mental testing...

This is idea is DEVOID OF INTELLECTUAL VALIDITY, until our "representitives" can be as highly scrutinized.

polygraph for loyalty/patriotism
IQ testing
drug testing
full release of ALL SCHOOL HISTORY
contact information from prior teachers and coworkers.

Sad the author didn't mention this.

Probably because Obama is the most secretive president I know of.... and he could never be scrutinized.

In short, invalid idea.

We deserve this type of scrutiny for ALL elected officials.

We are OWED that information.

Posted by: docwhocuts | July 16, 2010 9:11 AM

Being that only a hand full of teams make it to the play-offs despite astonomical salaries it does not appear to be much of an effective system? Some teams have gone decades without an NBA title.
But I would expect comment like this from a President that knows nothing about running a business. Maybe he should run the nations basketball pool?

Posted by: SSTK34 | July 16, 2010 7:52 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company