As he lay dying on a summer’s day in 323 B.C., Alexander the Great was asked whom his successor would be. The Macedonian emperor is said to have wearily turned to his generals and said that his empire would go to the strongest among them. Within a couple of years, the empire that had been carved out by the world’s first professional army over a dozen years of hard campaigning, self-destructed. A series of battles and assassinations later, Alexander’s relatives were dead; his legacy split three ways among the generals who survived. The empire that stretched from Egypt to Greece to Persia to Punjab was no more.
In hindsight, the brilliance in strategy and tactics that made Alexander an undefeated military commander on the field of battle were nowhere on display. Granted, he was only 33 years old—not the age you think of handing over the baton. But having lived a life of uncertainty and violence in equal measure, it was always going to be a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’. In this, the Macedonian’s vision was perhaps clouded by delusions of immortality.
A CIO I know very well, looks at each organization he is associated with as a four-year project. A few months ago, he shared how his department’s organizational structure had evolved over the past few years. I was impressed with his efforts to radically change the way the team was structured, identify those with leadership potential and to specifically mentor them to take the organization ahead.
He also decided on the kind of behavior to nurture that would be in keeping with the changes to the organization as a whole that the management envisioned. And, he built this into a part-formal, part-informal mentoring process.
He recently moved over to another assignment. The transition to his team and its leaders was not only seamless but also painless. I needn’t have asked him what he was up to these days, for he predictably replied: “Well, over the next four years…”
In the end, Alexander’s legacy was wiped out because despite a bunch of A-grade generals, he had no inheritors, no true inspiring leaders, no one who could take the
Macedonian empire and build on it.
Have you planned out how your second-line will take over from you? Are you fostering tomorrows leaders? Write in and let me know.