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一夜之间群龙无首,公司如何重整旗鼓

Shelley DuBois 2011年10月18日

领导人突然离职,公司该如何安抚军心?

    2004年,史蒂夫•乔布斯身患胰腺癌的消息曝光,此后,媒体一直在热议,万一苹果公司(Apple)失去乔布斯,公司能否继续保持高速增长。今年八月,乔布斯宣布辞职,并于近期逝世,苹果公司员工和全世界的科技爱好者都万分沉痛。

    公司高层的权力更迭本不足为奇,但研究表明,与周密策划的继任方案等平稳过渡相比,领导者突然离职将给公司带来非同寻常的影响。公司权力层遭遇剧变,员工往往深受打击,但是总有解决的办法。

    事实上,苹果为这种过渡期做了相当一段时间的铺垫:乔布斯生前就已经开始着手培养前首席运营官蒂姆•库克为继任者。“库克是史蒂夫•乔布斯钦点的接班人,并且在乔布斯的提携下,他的角色也逐渐被外界所接受,”美国马里兰大学(the University of Maryland)组织与管理学教授吉拉德•陈说,“这种安排使苹果比毫无准备的公司更加平稳地实现过渡。”

    美国心理协会(the American Psychological Association)工作场所健康项目主管大卫•巴拉德说,就算公司暂时没有大的领导层变动计划,也要随时做好准备。因为说不准哪天,公司CEO就可能会因病缺席或者另谋高就,也有可能像惠普(HP)前CEO马克•赫德那样,因卷入丑闻而被迫辞职。遗憾的是,大部分公司都没有预防性的紧急继任计划。

    CEO颜面扫地,公司不得不临时将其扫地出门,由此带来的高层巨变有可能会导致格外困难的局面。公司员工可能从此丧失对留任领导层成员的信任,特别是如果这些管理层成员曾对当事人表示过支持,或公司的公众形象过分依赖于当事人个人。

    但事实上,管理层完全可以将违规领导者造成的损失转变为积极的影响,休斯顿大学(the University of Houston)工业与组织心理学教授丽莎•佩妮说。留任的高层成员可以借机强化公司的价值标准。解雇位高权重但却表现不合格的人物可以传递出这样一个信息:CEO与普通员工享受平等待遇,公司行为准则不容破坏。

    专家认为,公司应该尽可能地引导管理层与员工进行对话,向员工清楚地解释为什么CEO离职也有好的一面。尤其在今天的经济形势下,领导层的任何变动都会让公司上下草木皆兵。

    “人们极端渴望稳定,”德克萨斯基督教大学(Texas Christian University)尼利(Neely)商学院的管理学教授比尔•贝克尔说,“大的变动一旦发生,就会触发危险信号。一般而言,往往会触发负面情绪。”

    如果已经预见到重大变故,尽早分配领导权能够提供最佳的缓冲效果。军队和大部分政府部门正是如此,陈说:“在这种体制里,职位必须定期更换,并确保随时有继任者前来接替。”也正是因为如此,军队和政府组织不能过于依赖某一个人。

    国际货币基金组织(International Monetary Fund)也同样如此,多米尼克•斯特劳斯-卡恩被控对酒店女员工实施性骚扰而卸任,其后IMF在克里斯丁娜•拉加德总裁的带领下实现了平稳过渡。在IMF这样的组织,领导人只能在固定任期内任职;而对于公司来说,要想建立一个领导人职位更替机制,则实属不易。

    即便如此,最高行政官在高管层分配权力总是一件好事。“分享权力需要领导人具备强大的自信,”陈说道,“愿意权力共享的领导者往往更信赖集体领导,而非个人专政。”

    事先实施权力分配的公司往往能够更有效地应对突然地剧变。即使主要领导者因丑闻而名誉扫地,或者身患疾病,甚至不幸亡故,导致公司整体遭遇重创,但其核心领导体系可以毫发无损。

    苹果公司是否具备这种可持续的领导架构还有待观察。尽管它曾经制定了继任计划,但毕竟,在过去的三十年里,差不多都是乔布斯一个人在唱独角戏。也许这并不是最可持续的领导战略,但毫无疑问,乔布斯所反对的正是传统的管理智慧。究竟是史蒂夫•乔布斯个人的管理艺术无人能及,还是苹果公司的管理体系无与伦比?苹果未来的表现将会告诉我们答案。

    译者:富来细特/汪皓

    Since Steve Jobs was reported to have pancreatic cancer back in 2004, media outlets have carried a debate over whether or not Apple could maintain its breakneck growth path without him. Jobs resigned in August, and his recent death saddened Apple (AAPL) employees and tech appreciators everywhere.

    Companies shift power at the top all the time, but research suggests that the sudden loss of a leader affects a company differently than a smooth transition, such as a successfully orchestrated succession plan. Given that companies often experience fast, dramatic shifts in power, there are ways to ease the blow to employees, who often feel traumatized by the change.

    Actually, Apple has been preparing for this transition for some time. Jobs had been grooming Apple's former COO Tim Cook to take over. "Cook was hand-selected by Steve Jobs and socialized into the role," says Gilad Chen, a professor of management and organization at the University of Maryland. "That will hopefully allow Apple to experience a smoother transition than companies that didn't really expect a change."

    But even companies that aren't expecting a major leadership shift should prepare for one, says David Ballard, director of the American Psychological Association's healthy workplace program. CEOs fall ill or switch jobs, or, in the case of Mark Hurd at HP (HP), become embroiled in a scandal that ultimately leads to their departure. Most companies don't have an emergency succession plan in place, Ballard adds.

    A sudden shift such as the firing of a disgraced CEO can be especially difficult. Employees tend to mistrust surviving leadership after this kind of scandal, especially if those members of management supported the CEO or hinged the company's image on him or her.

    But managers can actually turn the loss of a rule-breaking leader into a positive, says Lisa Penney, a professor of industrial organizational psychology at the University of Houston. Remaining leaders can use the CEO's departure to reinforce the company's values. Firing powerful people who fail to uphold standards sends a message that no one is immune, that codes of conduct are set in stone.

    Experts agree that as much as possible, companies should guide the conversation about a CEO's departure and provide clear, valid explanations to employees why the change is good. Especially in this economy, any sort of shift in leadership causes employees to start hearing footsteps.

    "We're sort of wired for consistency," says Bill Becker, a management professor at Texas Christian University's Neely business school. "When there's significant change, that triggers a danger signal. In general, that's going to generate negative emotions."

    One of the best buffers to a perceived sea change is to distribute leadership early on. This happens in the military and with most government positions: "Those are systems where there's a regular shift on tap," Chen says, and therefore those organizations cannot depend too much on any one person.

    The same is true for the International Monetary Fund, which made a fairly smooth leadership transition under managing director Christine Lagarde after Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned from the position amid accusations that he sexually assaulted a hotel housekeeper. Again, that's an organization where leaders only serve for a set term, and it may be tough for companies to build a management structure where leaders are as interchangeable.

    Still, it's a good sign when a top executive can distribute leadership opportunities across upper management. "It takes a strong, confident leader to share power," Chen says. "Leaders who are more likely to share power believe in the power of many versus the power of one."

    Companies with this kind of power distribution are much more resilient to changes that appear dramatic. Even though a primary leader may be disgraced, or the loss of a leader to sickness or death may come as an upsetting blow to the organization, the true leadership network stays intact.

    It remains to be seen whether or not Apple built this kind of sustainable leadership structure. While the company had a succession plan in place, it was very much a one-man show for decades. It may not have been the most sustainable leadership strategy, but of course, Steve Jobs bucked much of management conventional wisdom. Apple's performance, going forward, will illustrate whether it really is a one-in-a-million company, or if Steve Jobs was just a one-in-a-million executive.

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