Searching for a Corporate Savior: The Irrational Quest for Charismatic CEOs

Searching for a Corporate Savior: The Irrational Quest for Charismatic CEOs

Yet we know surprisingly little about how CEOs are selected and dismissed or about their true power.

This is the first book to take us into the often secretive world of the CEO selection process.

In recent years, he shows, corporations have increasingly sought CEOs who are above all else charismatic, whose fame and force of personality impress analysts and the business media, but whose experience and abilities are not necessarily right for companies' specific needs.

Khurana's findings are based on a study of the hiring and firing of CEOs at over 850 of America's largest companies and on extensive interviews with CEOs, corporate board members, and consultants at executive search firms.

Written with exceptional clarity and verve, the book explains the basic mechanics of the selection process and how hiring priorities have changed with the rise of shareholder activism.

Khurana argues that the market for CEOs, which we often assume runs on cool calculation and the impersonal forces of supply and demand, is culturally determined and too frequently inefficient.

The book is a major contribution to our understanding of corporate culture and the nature of markets and leadership in general.

Reviews of the Searching for a Corporate Savior: The Irrational Quest for Charismatic CEOs

I haven't posted the footnotes, just my thoughts Theory Note As an HR policy, the selection criteria for executive leadership forms one of the most determinative characteristics of any public institution, and policing is not necessarily unique for the challenges inherent to successful policy. All bureaucratic institutions arguably face the same fundamental dilemma in executive recruitment: either to promote specialist, knowledgeable insiders or instead generalist, objective outsiders. In both business and government a rational, dispassionate, objective executive selection process can be compromised by the psychological factors that engender subjective, ad hoc decisions by officials who are themselves the directly interested stakeholders or even candidates. Some common patterns are identifiable to such institutional politics, including: - incumbents personal incentive to present themselves as irreplaceable; - impulsive hiring authority (i.e. corporate board or cabinet), weakened by dissent among membership, - unfamiliarity with the role in necessary detail, or limited mandate to pre-plan; - denial about succession as a perennial and inevitable HRM function, assuming it an exceptional and thus ad hoc process, so that little institutional memory links iterations; - secretiveness and poor transparency often from oversensitivity to losing candidates and dissenting observers leading to with even less institutional memory linking iterations. Effective executive succession requires not only an advanced contingency plan to structure the executive hiring process, but to be situated within a comprehensive HR strategy informed by reliable criteria for executive potential to remediate these forms of bias throughout HRM. Informed by Max Webers contrast of bureaucratic with charismatic authority, Ramesh (2002) documents how the rise of institutional shareholders (such as pension or mutual funds) has greatly intensified demand for external CEO accountability for firm performance, with the observed corollary of broad preference for motivational charisma over subject-matter expertise. The institutional culture of a firm or sector can shape in detail the particular personality qualities of charismatic authority; in police forces for example, separation of rank from appointment signifies paying for the person per Macky (2003), i.e. all a workers attributes retained on an opened-ended basis for potentially variable work. In this regard, Chief Executive leadership signifies what (Wilson, 1989) describes as coping discipline, in that neither the methods nor results of executive work are clearly observable at least not in isolation from institutional operations and performance as a whole. As geographic hierarchies of public officials appointed from above (i.e. feudalism) came to be elected from below (i.e. federalism), or dissolved entirely into a unitary nation-state such as in New Zealand, the lines of delegation left available to public authority are basically those of professional function or economic sector. Today's specialist secondary executives (Chief Financial Officer, Chief Info-technology Officer, Chief Legal Officer, etc.) usually lack the breadth of knowledge and general decision-making experience needed as CEO: in lieu of definitive competencies, internal candidates too must be evaluated by less technical, and more a subjective 'leadership' record. Their cultivation of stakeholders and social networks may be decisive, which encourages patronage and implicit alliance-forming politics that not only skews executive teams deliberations and performance, but spurs CEOs to discourage the development of plausible i.e. rival internal heirs-apparent, unless they position themselves as a mentor and controlling sponsor (Cannella & Lubatkin,1993). External Selection Unfortunately, there is no evidence to link generic leadership or charisma to performance, and pressure to prove bona fides may foster bias for excessive organisational change and restructuring; Max Weber observed that charismatic leaders tend to arise in the middle of acute social disruptions (Ramesh 2002). As Hood & Jackson (1994) identify in fashion-like trends over the centuries, it can be shown to rely overwhelmingly on such heuristics as the six techniques of classical rhetoric: Symmetry solutions seem to fit the problems; Metaphor it sounds right; Ambiguity something in it for everyone; Suspensions of disbelief appeals to a higher cause Selectivity consider the favourable examples Private interest presented as public good; All six of these can be seen in an analogous case-study, the contentious hiring of former NZ Post CEO John Allen as New Zealands first Chief Executive at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to be appointed from outside diplomatic corps. If Ramesh (2002) is correct that external accountability popularises CEOs who personify charismatic archetypes, then in addition to these tools, charisma, bias selection must bias to the prestige of incumbency at Chief Executive status.

An interesting book about how to think about CEO searches and pay. What I think is unfortunate is that he chose Jamie Dimon as his example of a "not as good" CEO.

  • English

  • Nonfiction

  • Rating: 3.55
  • Pages: 295
  • Publish Date: July 26th 2004 by Princeton University Press
  • Isbn10: 0691120390
  • Isbn13: 9780691120393