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When leaders are asleep at the wheel

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger
The man in charge was never really at the wheel in any meaningful sense. If he was it was one of those small plastic steering wheels attached to the back seat, the wheel turns and the horn peeps but it makes no difference to the direction of travel. (Guardian)
The vision, the strategy and most significantly the budget decisions were made by others. The same others made key appointments. Even in the day to day management there was interference. There were clear expectations, ambitious targets, a critical local media and no shortage of people with ideas about how performance could be improved.
The consensus was the organisation did have some very talented individuals, a mix of proven experience and exciting young managers. But the Chief Executive (CE) didn’t seem able to get them to operate as a cohesive unit. Encouraging improvement in the first year had not been built on in the second and now in the third year their was the risk of drift and a concern that some senior managers would settle for comfortable mid table.
Three years was considered long enough to deliver the boards ambitions for the organisation after all it was more time than was given to the two previous chief executives!  If fact this one had been given extra time because the board did not want a reputation for being trigger happy.
Some of the senior management team were undoubtedly loyal, others less so. The “boss” was popular but even those who liked him were losing confidence that he could turn things round. It was a vicious circle, the board though the CE had  lost the confidence of the senior management team, the senior management team thought the board no longer supported the CE.
When the end came it came quickly. A one to one with the chair of the board on Friday night and Monday morning employees were told the CE had left by mutual agreement! Acting up arrangements were announced whilst recruitment consultants started the search for the next CE.
The question here is was this a failure of leadership, the result of appointing a popular but relatively inexperience person as chief executive. An appointment based on the personality and potential of the individual rather than their track record. Or is the fact that this is the third CE in the space of less than six years an indication of a more fundamental problem within the organisation? Because if it is the latter some soul searching needs to take place before a long list of candidates is drawn up. Starting with have we got the relationship between the board and the CE right?

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