Life after a leader

How can a business move on after a central figure like Martin Sorrell departs?

by Simon Hayward

Great leadership can make or break a business. So when a renowned boss leaves a company, especially when they built it themselves over many decades, it leaves a vacuum. The danger is that the leader who so successfully set the tone for the organisation also created a culture of dependency that leaves it directionless when they go.  

Martin Sorrell is a case in point. He’s recognised as a giant of the advertising industry and is renowned for his outspoken views. There does not appear to be a clear succession plan in place, and WPP has stated it will consider internal or external candidates for the CEO role. How can the board and the next CEO ensure a smooth succession after such an abrupt departure?

Immediate challenges for a new CEO

The appointment of a new CEO will always create a wave of change across a business. Different colleagues will react in different ways, but all will appreciate clear and consistent communication. Many new CEOs benefit from spending time with customers, stakeholders, and colleagues across the business – even if they are internal hires who have spent time in the company already.

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