Should Ex-CEO’s continue to mentor?

Posted on June 3, 2008. Filed under: Management & Leadership, Uncategorized |

TODAYonline wrote a front page article yesterday (2 June 2008), “Which hat was Tan Kin Lian wearing?”

Tan Kin Lian (Tan) is NTUC Income’s ex-CEO and has since retired from the insurance scene. Backed by years of experience running the nation’s co-operative insurance firm, he began blogging about insurance matters.

As an industry veteran giving excellent advice, his blog site quickly drew high traffic from many Singaporeans.

When NTUC Income decided to adjust the bonus payouts for their policies, Tan disapproved the matter. He took the issue up on the blogsite and spearheaded a collective protest against the policy change.

The arguments got picked up in the mainstream media and was turned ‘ugly’, as reflected in media articles. These articles somewhat created the perception that Tan was cornering the current CEO of NTUC Income, Tan Swee Chieh (TSC), in a clash of personalities. TSC is the successor of Tan since Feb 2007.

Along the way, the two must have departed on their views to run the company.

The article on TODAY brought up an interesting topic for discussion, one that is close to my heart – Should leaders of a company, who have already retired / stepped down, continue to participate in the leadership of the organisation?

Leaders, natural stakeholders of the organisation, would probably have put in heart, blood and sweat into an organisation to make it work. These involves a huge amount of investment, in terms of time, effort and brainpower. Through their high level of involvement, leaders gain deep insights and knowledge of the organisation and would have also developed the management strategy (both short and long term plans) to make the organisation work.

When a new management term takes over, there’s always a new set of management styles, with a different focus of what’s on the priority list.

More often than not, new leaders try to ‘outshine’ their predecessors – which, may not be such a bad thing. However, most end up re-inventing the wheel, which is a waste of time and effort.

With great knowledge and deep insights, past leaders are eager to share their experiences and how they think matters should be done. With this differing agendas, personalities often clash.

This happens to me on a personal level too. I mentor a student club that I was involved in back in my university. The most common comment that I hear from the existing leaders are, ” things are different now, your management strategies won’t work.”

What happens next, is my team and I witnessing the current team running in circles.

On the other hand, there are many best practices that are developed by current batches of leaders that my team would not have thought of. Most importantly, they worked.

The difference is this, we engage. Different batches of leaders meet regularly and we communicate our thoughts. We might ‘agree to disagree’ or we might come to a collaboration.

Regardless of the outcome, we never fight in public. At least, to the club members and our stakeholders, the management team is on the same side and they have got the backing of the seniors.

So, I think that ex-leaders should return to help, as consultants, as advisors to the current management. However, these ex-leaders must learn to let go.

Not everything must be done in the same way. Who is the judge of success? Who knows, perhaps, a short term glitch might be a blessings in disguise?

It’s tough to do that when you’ve got so much interest in the organisation. I’m learning that myself.

What do you think? Should ex-leaders participate in the management of an organisation? I love to hear from you.


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