The Person Who Follows the Person

Warren Buffett is no George Clooney.  He’s the Oracle of Omaha but he doesn’t have a lick of superstar/superhero charisma. He’s spent a lifetime getting things done.

At 80 years old, Buffett understands that Berkshire Hathaway needs to continue producing and succeeding long after he’s gone. With this in mind he’s laid out what he thinks his succession process should look like.  Since the beginning, Buffett has held the roles of CIO and CEO, but it appears that when he leaves (actually dies, because he’s made it very clear that he’s not retiring) that at least two (if not more) people will be needed to fill his shoes.

Over the past 44 years Berkshire Hathaway has had annual growth over 20%. Let that sink in. Hell, Bernie Madoff was lying his backside off and he only promised 10%. There is a lot at stake and replacing Mr. Buffett will be a pressure filled, herculean task.   I would imagine that there will be a need to convince the world that the individual or individuals who end up supplanting Buffett won’t run the company into the ground. Share holders and company leaders might be tempted to choose someone who’s colorful and overwhelming personality will fill the gap for Buffett’s monochromatic success.  Sometimes it’s just easier to put a smiling handsome (or pretty) and comforting face out front of any tough decision.

For a long time mankind has believed that charisma and leadership go hand in hand. As a whole we are obsessed with the idea of the leader as superhero. If you can’t leap a tall building, you can’t lead. If you can’t charm the pants of an audience with smooth talk, you can’t lead. Well, if you read my second paragraph it’s pretty clear the whole superhero thing is a crock. The only prerequisite for leadership is the ability to get things done.  It doesn’t hurt to be tall, dark and handsome (not that I would know) but you can lead successfully without it.

I am not so worried about Mr. Buffett. He’s going to have a hand in choosing who takes his place.  I am more worried about the person who follows the person who follows Mr. Buffett.

Will there be another generation of leaders that haven’t been tainted by our addiction to fame and charisma? Are we headed towards a future of style over substance? I guess a little razzle dazzle isn’t so bad, but we just have to make sure that getting things done is always the #1 reason we choose our leaders.

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