Sunday, 7 February 2010

Succession Planning: The leader you like or the leader you need?

Succession Planning: The leader you like or the leader you need?
Published: 6/02/2010 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Business

One major factor in determining an organisation's character, direction and future is the character of its leaders. This is why leading organisations worldwide attach considerable importance and investment into finding good leaders, leaders who can respond to expectations and to the organisational direction and changing circumstances to create success and sustainable growth.

How can organisations be confident that the leaders they choose will be well-suited for dealing with the organisation, its challenges and future? What characteristics and qualifications should the organisation leader have? And what parameters and characteristics should be used for this consideration?

For almost two years, an alliance of APM Group and Hogan (a leading global company specialising in personnel evaluation) has done research in this area. The goal is to find the qualifications of leaders who will be suitable successors, leaders who will best be able to face a continuously changing business future and best be able to handle the current and future competition and competitive environment.

We started by finding information on high-performance CEOs in America, Europe and Asia. Initially, we could not clearly identify common characteristics and qualifications. So we narrowed our focus to good performance in profit and expansion of business growth. Finally, we obtained information on 55 leading organisations with double profit expansion every year.

We also studied 94 leading organisations that have shown the best succession planning. We considered what characteristics and qualifications the successors of these organisations had by specifically emphasising the people undergoing succession planning. We studied how the 94 organisations prepared their people and what qualifications the people had.

Next, we compared the obtained information with the information from the first 55 organisations to find similarities and differences. We also considered 405 middle talent managers who have been under talent management plans for five consecutive years.

These are the information sources I studied to bring that important and useful information to further exchange with readers.

The leader you "like" and the "ideal" leader: I have worked closely with executives of many leading organisations over my 18 years as a consultant, and one question I always ask is whether they use old information when selecting people or in succession planning. It is an issue I want all executives to consider.

Currently, leading organisations use the current situation or future plans to prepare and select qualifications and characteristics for new successors. The past is not usually taken into consideration.

Finding new characteristics and qualifications for organisation leaders is very important. It is a significant factor that affects the organisation model, business operation, strategy and future of the organisation for more than 10 years. Therefore, selecting a new leader is delicate and must be seriously done in an in-depth manner.

The leader must be both a person you like and the ideal person for the position. Organisations have to ask themselves what information they use when they make succession plans, whether they consider previous guidelines or future expectations.

Today, organisations have a forward-focus: they look to tomorrow and not to yesterday. In the past, old methods and old qualifications might have been successful and suitable. There is nothing wrong with methods and qualifications that have been proven successful in the past. But today's e-world revolves faster: we have to closely watch trading and business operations - every second, it seems.

Currently, the rate of change is fast. There are a myriad more factors, situations, information sources and data. And there are requirements with which we must be more careful than in the past. So we have to be careful when we ask ourselves if the leader we intend to select is the person we like and is also ideal for the position.

Today, organisations are focusing their readiness on those areas they expect to increase or change in the future. And they need to ask themselves whether the leader they are looking to can deal with those things. While many organisations still adhere to old models that used to be successful in the past, they need to ask whether those methods can still be used now.

Some of the old methods can - should - be kept, but they need to be carefully considered in the light of expected future events and changes. In those areas where the older methods will not work, organisations need to consider new requirements both in-depth and widely, in order to select the most suitable and most ideal leader.


Arinya Talerngsri is managing director at the APM Group, Thailand's leading Organisation & People Development Consultancy. Write her at

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