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A New Trend in Succession Management

Source | LinkedIn : By Prabhakar Mundkur

There was a time when new leaders took over organisations and left the people of the previous administration alone.  However over the last few decades it has almost become imperative that a new leader comes with his own army.

The reason seems to be more to do with loyalties of the staff to the predecessor and the discomfort this causes to the successor rather than the professional competence of the staff.   Which probably says something about the rise of politics in politics and organisations.

When I joined business in the late 70s and early 80s new leaders came in without creating tumultuous changes in the organisation. They almost slipped in gently into their successors shoes.  Their greatest challenge was winning the loyalty of those around them.  And being aware that a certain section of the staff would be loyal to the predecessor.  This often became the leaders’ biggest challenge.  To win over the loyalty of the key staff members of the previous administration.

But over the last few decades I have noticed both in politics and in organisations that new leaders  come with their own army of lieutenants  because they feel threatened by the staff of the predecessor.   Even when new leaders that are chosen actually reported to the predecessor and were a part of the same administration and therefore a succession from within.

Image : Telegraph UK headlines

In Theresa May’s case it is even more surprising because after all she was a part of David Cameron’s cabinet so it was a succession from within and therefore she must have worked closely with and known quite well all the people she has now culled from the Cabinet that includes 9 ministerial resignations and sackings.

When the successor has to sack or cull the previous staff in large numbers does that tell a story of division in the previous administration? I think it does. David Cameron must know now who his real enemies were. That is if he did not already know it. Lets look at some more successful modern cases of succession from within in our recent management and political history.


In 2011, Timothy Cook replaced the legendary Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple Inc. after having been with the company for 13 years. Prior to Jobs’s resignation, Cook had served as COO for five years, and had temporarily taken over Jobs’s role on three occasions during Jobs’s medical leaves. Apple’s board reported having “complete confidence that Tim was the right person to be Apple’s next CEO.”  In the time since Cook took the reins, Apple’s market value has increased by roughly $140 billion.

That tells a story of a company that was at peace with itself.  Tim Cook didn’t have to cull key positions to make it as a successful CEO at Apple inspite of the challenge of having to fill in the shoes of a legend.

Gerald Ford

Although Gerald Ford who took over from Nixon was not a frontrunner kind of President and had to take over the job of running America because it was practically thrust upon him, he moved into the job so smoothly no one may have noticed it. But what I commend him most for as a manager was that he pardoned his predecessor for his involvement in the Watergate scandal.

There were no historical or legal precedents to guide Ford in the matter of Nixon’s pending indictment. In the end, he decided to give Nixon a full pardon for all offenses against the United States in order to put the tragic and disruptive scandal behind all concerned. Ford justified this decision by claiming that a long, drawn-out trial would only have further polarized the public.

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