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In sickness and in health

in sickness and in health 816x427 - In sickness and in health

By Tony Samson

THESE are the words fervently and publicly proclaimed in marriage vows. They promise steadfastness in times of tribulations brought on by failing health (you forgot your walking stick, Hon).

This same devotion is not proffered to leaders undergoing health problems. Not that even in marriage, especially late, is this vow always observed. After all, the state of well-being is not confined to the physical, but the fiscal as well.

Corporate chiefs as they advance in age without any succession plan in place and hanging on beyond retirement age are constantly observed for failing mental faculties. Instructions are contradictory and given to different executives. Speech patterns are stretched with long pauses where the verb eagles looking for a direct object, as the sound of coffee being dipped around the table become noticeable — somebody please complete the sentence. Outbursts of temper are frequent.

What happens to the organization with an ailing chief who thinks he’s still in good health and capable of carrying on?

The designated gatekeeper assumes unusual powers when petitioners want to see the chief — sorry he’s taking a nap. The gatekeeper may or may not actually clear requests for appointments and memos for signing with the chief.

Power groups form in this power vacuum. This may entail those not even in the Organization chart like family members and romantic attachments. They use proxies to make their moves, usually appointments to top positions and bully the gatekeeper — can you have the chief sign this short memo?

Appointments and public appearances are abruptly cancelled with a curt note to organisers of events — he needs to take a nap. His representative will read the speech he wrote for him. No other explanation is forthcoming.

Nobody is really in charge and major decisions are put on hold, until the situation is more stable. Banks and stockholders are particularly concerned about this management risk.

Doctors become constant companions and may also be pressed to pass on items for signature — Sir, you’re just supposed to sign this document that your blood pressure is through the roof.

Of course, nature can take its course to relieve the corporate situation. Full page ads are taken and tributes showered on the chief “who worked through the end” and died with his boots on.

Then, the whole unstable process continues until a new chief is designated, preferably much younger and in good health (he just completed the marathon in Berlin). By then, it is the company that may have health issues, definitely of the fiscal variety.

Sickness and health for the chief also affect nations. In those cases, it is the subject of media speculation, fake news, and inside information. Anyway for that situation, there is a succession process in place… but not always devoid of conspiracy theories and some surprises.


Tony Samson is Chairman and CEO, TOUCH xda.

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