Horse races have been around for centuries. Archeological evidence suggests that the sport first began in Ancient Greece and then spread to Babylon, Egypt and Syria. Today, races are held in many countries throughout the world, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Japan and Venezuela. Some of the most prestigious horse races include the Preakness Stakes, the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes and the American Triple Crown. These are viewed as tests of speed and stamina.
The first documented race was between two noblemen in France in 1651. In the 1860s, racing was standardized and heats were reduced to a few miles. There were also age restrictions for horses. For example, a horse could be no more than six years old. A handicapping system was created to ensure that all horses had a fair chance of winning.
Today, many companies choose a winner based on a combination of factors. Typically, the organization’s leadership development processes, the board’s culture and the current performance of senior leaders are taken into consideration. Boards must decide whether a chosen leader is appropriate for the organization and if the selected executive is the best person to lead the company.
While the horse race approach has been used by companies to select the next CEO, there are some executives who are uncomfortable with the concept. Some worry that the horse race approach focuses too much on superficial factors. Others fear that the succession process will stall business momentum. Whether or not a company chooses a winner, it can help motivate employees by demonstrating that the board is committed to developing high performers.
Successful companies have a succession culture, which prepares high achievers for more demanding roles. It may involve internal collaboration and resource sharing. It can also focus on the leadership development of promising executives. Companies with a successful succession culture have a set of practices that they adopt and refine as they grow. They identify the competencies that they believe are necessary for a successful leader and then groom those competencies into the future stars.
A horse race is a great way to choose a leader, but it should be a part of a comprehensive succession plan. The strategy should include strategies to avoid disruptions. As with any other election campaign, the board should determine whether a chosen leader is the best fit for the organization. If a horse race results in a long succession process, some directors fear that the business momentum will stall.
Ideally, the horse race will also be a signal to employees that the company is held accountable for its performance. Overt competition for the top job provides motivation for employees. Choosing a winner may also leave some senior-level executives behind in the organization. Ultimately, a successful company will create a culture of overt competition for the top job, which cultivates the skills of the best possible leader and prepares him or her to take on a challenging role.