Proactive Humility

“The ouster of American International Group Inc. Chief Executive Martin Sullivan is the latest casualty among new CEOs who were unable to overcome a company's troubles.

“Dozens of companies have replaced their CEOs in recent years, as shareholders and boards have grown more assertive and sentiment has turned against so-called imperial CEOs.

“But just as firing the manager rarely revives a last-place sports team, companies are finding that ousting a CEO is rarely a cure-all for corporate ills.

“Three years ago, Mr. Sullivan was promoted at AIG amid a wave of optimism that he could steer the company through the regulatory and legal hurdles left by former CEO Maurice ‘Hank’ Greenberg. Since then, AIG shares have lost nearly half their value.

“Another CEO from the class of 2005, Aylwin Lewis, who succeeded the demoted Alan J. Lacy at Sears Holdings Corp. in September that year, was himself ousted by Chairman Edward S. Lampert in January...

“A Wall Street Journal survey of 30 companies in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index that removed CEOs between January 2005 and June 2007 reveals that the shares of those companies have declined far more often than they have increased. The decliners include Eastman Kodak Co., Newell Rubbermaid Inc., UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Home Depot...

“Recruiters, consultants and executives said the problems at a troubled company are often bigger than a single, fresh leader can repair quickly…

“Some new CEOs are big heroes. Mark Hurd has boosted revenue and profit at Hewlett-Packard Co. since succeeding Carly Fiorina in 2005; H-P shares have more than doubled. Walt Disney Co. shares have risen under Robert Iger.

“These successful successors are decisive leaders with ‘a really heightened ability to listen and interact with all of their constituencies,’ says Roger J. Brunswick, a managing partner at New York consulting firm Hayes Brunswick & Partners LLC. He said Mr. Hurd wins points for frequent meetings with customers and for being accessible and open to criticism from lower-level staffers.”

(“Corporate News: New CEO Is Rarely a Quick Fix; Too Many Problems, Too Little Time Vex AIG, Other Firms.” Joann S. Lublin. Wall Street Journal: June 17, 2008. pg. B.8)

BE QUIET; listen. Be still; listen. Be humble; listen. Be teachable; learn.

Now act.

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