Every CEO is a human being (some questionable!) but they still are living breathing beings. And some are more healthy than others. And the stress of the job can take a toll on the health of a CEO. But is your business prepared if your CEO needs to take care of his or her health? And how to you tell your employees, if the head honcho has a grave condition?
One of the most epic stories is how Steve Jobs handed over Apple's reins to Tim Cook. Having worked at a company Steve ran (Claris, now Filemaker) I had the fortune to not only see him speak at our little Apple offshoot, but also specifically interact with him (I asked him a question, he answered AND I didn't get yelled at!). And watching people in our company interact with him, you just know Tim Cook was the proper choice. No one expected Tim to BE the new Steve Jobs, you just knew that Steve wouldn't hand the jewels over to just anybody.
And with a stock price that has more than doubled, it seems like it was the right decision! Steve always had a deep bench, according to Walter Isaacson in his Harvard Business Review article The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs, "Jobs had a close-knit family, and so it was at Apple: His top players tended to stick around longer and be more loyal than those at other companies, including ones led by bosses who were kinder and gentler."
How Deep is the Bench?
So how do you emulate a leader like Steve Jobs? According to Walter Isaacson you "Tolerate Only 'A' Players." You need to start thinking right now who can succeed the CEO. If the internal team is built properly there should be an obvious someone. Is there someone inside the company who can jump in? Are they respected by other employees? Are they respected in your industry? All of these questions come into play.
Take Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airlines. He just had a heart transplant this month after his heart attack back in September. According to United, he's not going to come back to the helm for a few months. And he's already announced his replacement in the New York Times, "Brett J. Hart, will be acting chief. In November, United said it expected Mr. Munoz to return during the first quarter."
Hart is no stranger to this position either, in an article last October in Fortune Magazine, he intended to keep going with Oscar's focus, "...customer service, teamwork, and innovation and I, along with the executive team, will continue to move quickly to implement it."
Culture is Important
Who is chosen to fill in or succeed the chief is important to the company culture. The team needs to respect who'll be filling in and customers and partners need to understand and see why.Tim Cook, now CEO of Apple, was quoted in this Fast Company article The Steve Jobs You Didn't Know, Kind, Patient and Human, "If you believe that it's important to understand Apple's culture deeply, you wind up clicking to an internal candidate," explains Cook. "If I were leaving this afternoon I'd recommend an inside candidate, because I don't think there's any way somebody could come in and understand the complexity of what we do and really get the culture in that deep way."
Come Clean With Employees
Let's face it - change can be scary. Especially if employees in the company get half of the story without all of the answers. And they care about a lot of things since they spend most of their day working for the company. So they deserve the right to know. It doesn't have to be extremely detailed information but they should know in a broad stroke or two what's going on behind the scenes. The need the answer to the obvious question: how is this news going to affect me, my job and my well-being?
In my experience people are usually not great at asking questions in large meetings and it's important for them to be able to feel comfortable about voicing concerns. You might want to talk to your employees either one on one or in smaller groups so they feel more comfortable speaking their minds in this situation.
Is your business prepared for the Chief to be out of commission for a while? Forever? It's time to start a plan for an unfortunate event so that the company continues and thrives!