If you haven't watched HBO's gripping drama Succession, you're missing out. Now in its second season, the sometimes cringe-worthy, often dark but always enjoyable series depicting the tribulations of a family-run media conglomerate (think Rupert Murdoch and his kin), provides myriad examples of leadership lessons in every episode. Usually of the "don't do it this way" variety.
The word dysfunctional doesn't begin to describe the Waystar Royco leadership team. If it's not infighting among the Roy siblings, its the chaos-creating gut decisions taken and often reversed by the mercurial and cantankerous patriarch, Logan. Here's the advice I'd give to the Roy family to help fix their problems. Although it would likely lead to my defenestration from their boardroom, I hope there's something useful in here for you.
1. Put down your founder hat.
This one has to do with the founder and CEO on the show, Logan. Having built the company to the status of a media empire, he still can't separate himself from the company. The very name of the show highlights the challenge he faces, namely to find his successor. Yet every time he comes close to naming a CEO, he reneges, only to take back control with a vice-like grip.
If you're the founder of your company, you may not yet be in a position to look at a succession plan, but you should learn how to ruthlessly make the distinction between your founder hat and your CEO hat.
As the founder, you have a particular set of rights and privileges, but too often they clash with the needs of the business. As the CEO, it's your job to make sure your team is pushing for the interests of the organization. Wear your CEO hat more often and leave the founder hat off as long as you can.
2. Have the debate in the room.
One of the things Logan enjoys doing is to go around the table and get thoughts from everyone on how to handle whatever crisis they're facing in that episode.
Not a bad idea in principle but with everyone jockeying for position, the Roy kids and Logan's other lieutenants regularly parrot what they think he wants to hear. There's no robust debate, no looking at the underlying data and no real decision-making criteria other than the boss decides.
When you get with your senior leadership team, make sure to strip out the politicking. Do this by clearly setting the decision-making criteria, looking objectively at the data that underpins your decision and by making it clear that the decision will be made in the room, not after.
3. Don't unpick your decisions.
Any decision by the Royco Waystar team can be unpicked at any time. Usually by lobbying Logan hard and showing in some humorous fashion why the proponents for the original decision can't be trusted.
I'd love to get a glimpse into the broader organization that gets pulled from ditch-to-ditch after every decision and then change of direction.
Once your decision is made, make it absolutely clear that it will remain that way unless new objective data gets presented. No side-bar chats, no water-cooler conversations. The team implements what the team decides.
I'm pretty sure Logan and his team would scoff but maybe it'll make a difference for you and your business.