Home > Uncategorized > Inside Man. Outside Man. Successful Transitions.

Inside Man. Outside Man. Successful Transitions.

Last few days has seen the return of two former leaders.

AG Lafley returned to take over from Bob McDonald as head of P&G.Image

NR Narayanamurthy returned to lead Infosys. Image

As I read the backstories I was reminded of a book I read a long long time ago by Harvey Mackay, called Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. Image

Among many things he suggests that successful companies must have 2 leaders with clearly defined roles.

One is the outside man. He is the face of the company, he, or she, paints the vision, Is the Pied Piper.

The other is the inside man. He is the oil that keeps the machine ticking. He makes things happen. Converts vision to reality.

I don’t know that there is need for two people, but I do know that these are two distinct roles and sometimes you do need two different people. Sometimes people are blessed to be able to do both. But for starters it is important that these two roles are recognised.

Let’s look at the most successful company of recent times. Apple. Jobs was the outside man. Cook was the inside man.

At P&G too from what I understand Lafley was the outside man, McDonald was the inside man.

At Infosys too Narayanamurthy was the outside man, while Nilekani was the inside man.

Simple so far?

The challenge is when the Outside Man moves on and the Inside Man becomes the outside man.(Usually Outside Men tend to be chairmen, CEOs etc while Inside Men tend to be COOs, Directors, VPs etc.)

Sometimes Inside Men become good Outside Men. Nandan Nilekani is a great example.

Larry Page seems to be doing well, taking over from Schmidt.

Companies that transition at the top could struggle for one of three reasons.

  1. The Inside Man is not a good Outside Man. Cook at Apple is struggling big time. He is not an Outside Man sort of guy. That affects the brand and share price in the short term, and the company’s future itself in the long term.
  2. There is no new Inside Man. When the Inside Man becomes the Outside Man, he needs to ensure he has a good Inside Man making him look good. I believe Brin is doing that job at Google.
  3. The Inside Man continues to behave like an Inside Man and meddles with the company operations and loses sight of the bigger picture and takes his hand off the wheel. I have worked with such people!!

Now looking at the companies that I started with : P&G and Infosys, I wonder if McDonald had a new wingman who was his Inside Man making his vision come true. Or if McDonald was just a poor Outside Man.

In the case of Infosys when Narayanamurthy was around he had some very good Inside Men, led my Nandan Nilekani. When Nilekani became the Outside Man, he still had Pai, Kris and Shibulal. But as that lot left, Shibulal was left to his own devices. He is not an Outside Man sort of guy. I don’t believe he had a good Inside Man either.

So as Lafley and Narayanamurthy come back they would do well to remember that they need to ensure that they transition to not just a great Outside Man, but also make sure that that person has a great Inside Man. That is the secret of a successful transition.

As I end this I am reminded of a great political Inside/Outside pair. Blair and Gordon.


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