"Task of renewal the toughest, says PM - Tue, Jan 26, 2010 my paper
SINGAPORE'S most difficult challenge: Updating the political system and renewing its leadership so it works in generations to come."
Succession planning is one of the most challenging tasks for any leader to plan and execute. There is this famously unfortunate succession planning failure by one of the most admired companies in the USA a decade or so ago. The company is CocaCola and this is how it went:
The then CEO handpicked his long time CFO to be the successor. It was lauded as the best pick as both of them have worked together for a long long time creating tremendous growth and values for the shareholders and the employees, and, of course, riches for themselves as well. The CFO is in the thick of most if not all of the significant milestones of the company's journey. YET. When the CFO took over, he did not last more than 2 years if I remembered correctly! He as actually pushed out as he put way too much emphasis on making the 'numbers'! Make the number at all costs! This breed very short term behaviors. One can go from Hero to Zero in a quarter!!
Lessons for me are:
1. leader must plan for succession. At the same time, it is wise to understand that the best laid plan can still go awry!;
2. be psychologically prepared for a Plan B that is not your best choice. Your selection criteria are your best wish list. The successors have to have their own ideas of how the future will look like and what actions they will need to take in order to bring that future into reality in the desired time period stated;
3. letting the successors more said after the criteria are agreed will be the best gifts as long as the fundamental agreed criteria are not moved. Unless there are change of the seismic proportion that rendered all previous suppositions invalid.
For the leadership of a democratic country, ultimately it is the voters who will decide who will be the next leader and there is only that much the PM can do!!