Editorial When leadership is leaving

Knowing when to step up to the plate and when to step down are important leadership skills. Accepting the challenge, doing great job while in office, and then completing the exercise by grooming successor and handing over the reins at just the right time is real leadership in action. But how often do promising leaders fail perfect round by stumbling at the last fence? It has to do with ego, power, insecurity about the future and all those other understandably personal failings that differentiate good leaders from mere imitations.

But how long is long enough in the top slot? Porras and Collins, authors of the management classic Built to Last, pooh-poohed prevailing wisdom that tenure should be as short-term as possible, by pointing out that some of the most successful of lastingly successful American enterprises flourished under the extended command of often relatively low profile CEOs and chairmen. On the other hand, tenure can’t be short enough if wrong-profile peg is somehow slotted into an ill-fitting hole. Management theorists are quick to point out that things are very different now. The pace of change and the tempo of organisational life are so rapid and abrasive that life expectancy at the top is shrinking. That’s why they are paid so much – they argue that their earning span has been severely truncated. Mmmm.

We decided to explore the issue this month, prompted by Carter Holt Harvey’s exemplary leader, Sir Wilson Whineray’s decision to toss his briefcase in the corner closet along with his All Black captain’s jersey and boots. It’s ‘after the final whistle’ for him and beer with his mates sans interruptions from cellphone. Vicki Jayne talked to Sir Wilson, and seven other leaders we respect for their service and sensibilities, and you can judge for yourself whether there is any golden rule that covers longevity or leadership. Is it as simple as how you feel about it and what you can get away with? The word integrity suddenly springs to mind.

And still on the subject of leadership, Australian-based contributor Bill Revill thinks there are seven secrets new managers should know when they finally land that new job and enhanced salary. There is invariably more to leadership position than getting the nod, he warns. “Now that you’re manager, there is no guarantee that those hands on the wheel are exclusively yours.” Revill should know. He’s had successful management career and has retired to write about it. You can find out his seven secrets simply by turning to page 31 of this issue. There are number of other useful secrets and experiences revealed in this issue of Management, so read on.

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