Anthony Hilton: Beware the trap of believing you are irreplaceable

 

One of the most contentious of the several thousand press releases to come in this week arrived on Thursday.

An international headhunter’s network, ICC, claimed to have discovered in a survey in the United States, Europe and Asia that 80 per cent of senior executives believe it would take their company a year to replace them.

The conclusion the survey’s sponsors drew was that companies needed to put a lot more effort into succession planning. They as headhunters would naturally see a role for themselves in this.

There is an alternative interpretation of the survey however. It is that the executives polled had a massively inflated sense of their own importance. They may need a succession plan, but they are even more in need of a visit to the psychiatrist or perhaps to employ the equivalent of a medieval court jester to whisper in their ear that they are still mortal.

Experience shows that when someone leaves the top of a company – in orderly or disorderly fashion – the businesses always finds someone to step in. The graveyards are full of executives who thought they were irreplaceable, when in truth few people can even recall their name after about six months.

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