Monday, June 12, 2017

Leadership: When Number Two can step in the leaders shoes

There's a Harvard Business Review writeup "To be Number One, get the Right Number Two" (Rosabeth Moss Kanter, 2012).

The message is that "most leaders benefit from a running-the-company mate. A good number two can back them up, reinforce their message, and handle major responsibilities with the same broad view as the top person."

Rosabeth then gives three guidelines for establishing a successor:

1. Alignment: which messages, values and strengths are clearly reinforced by Number Two ?

2. Differentiation: does Number Two bring up complimentary skills and abilities ?

3. Succession: can the CEO (Number One) hand over power ?

These three things are salient, However, CEOs, bosses in general, do not happily hand over their titles to underlings, except when 1). Jumping ship to a better appointment 2). Retiring and 3). Out of the job on health issues ! Only on one of these three specific situations you see a boss hand over the keys to the castle !

Never seen any of my bosses saying this to me: "Here you go, wonderful, have my job, it comes with a huge desk and my secretary." Rosabeth in fact briefly acknowledges it but only in passing:

"In fact, some CEOs don’t want a strong number two, perhaps finding it threatening that they could be surpassed." (Rosabeth Moss Kanter)

That's a time we can call our own: UlysseNardin Marine 1846.
Max Cantor readers: Which watch tells your time ?

"Bosses love to overstay their welcome." -Max Cantor truth pill #5 

"In Silicon Valley, they do that with Founders stock."-Max Cantor maxim #6

That's happening even when they are no longer needed or work well. More and more CEO's need to be pushed out. It's happening at the largest companies, at Ford with Mark Fields, and it is not just "because the stock declined by 40% under" him" or "he had no clear business vision". We've learned today of Jeffrey Immelt at GE set to be replaced Aug. 1st. [retirement move announcement]. Jeffery Immelt didn't wake up one morning and said to himself: I want John Flannery to have my job. He either planned to retire or was pressured to do so. At such a large of a company it would be safe to say they had a Number Two or a few of them ready to replace Immelt. The company had to nurture a replacement, and Number One had to help [bring that Number Two up to speed.]

Dangerous: When the CEO is readily identified with the company. Where people cannot even see a Number Two.

[Most-N.A.] planets have one Sun, a CEO once told me. He likened himself with the Sun. [Note: I didn't appreciate it one bit.]

"Bosses think they are the best at what they do. Even if they are not." -Max Cantor maxim #6

If you've ever interviewed for a managerial job, one of the questionsyou are asked is "How many people have you had authority over, or supervised ? If you fall within their guidelines for that position ( one to ten people, 10 to 30 people, 50 to 150, etc.) you may advance in the interview process, otherwise they'll drop you like deadweight on a sinking ship.

Bosses measure themselves on how many people they've handled. That is dangerously subjective. Handling a department, division, or a company that's large overall doesn't paint a clear picture: if I've handled 50 people working in a hospital let's say, that doesn't mean I can handle 50 people or less working in a bank customer calling center.

Note to my readers:

1. Please do not send me any Resumes. I don't read resumes or follow through. Get a career counselor, web career services such as Vault or WSO. I do not provide resume feedback.

2. Thank you for your readership. I'm hitting 3000 page views per day, which is great traffic coming from almost zero just 10 months ago.

3. The best results accrue if you are frequent reader of this blog. If you're a birdie, you snooped around once, saw something you didn't like and left, you're not serious about improving your chances and your're probably not cut to be a leader. In fact, most people, are happy to labor under their boss whom they dearly love and revere -until they get fired.


  1. Refreshingly honest. This is the best founder help blog I have ever seen. Kudos !

    1. Thank you, Mario. FYI, been part of Techstars, great program. I recommend it to founders looking for angels.

  2. Max, I don't have anything against Ulyses Nardin. I just think Montblanc 1858 Automatic watch does a better job.


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