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Holding on to power in your 70s, 80s, 90s; Commercially, Politically, Monarchically

Rhea

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I often wonder at the, what seems like hubris to me, of ruling into your 80s and 90s and refusing to provide sucessors with the opportunity to transition into ruling with you as an advisor. It seems to indicate they would be so bad at it, you can’t bear to hand it over. And then - it means you only hand it over when you are no longer around to advise and assist.

I wrote this in the QEII thread, but pondered the truth of it in political office, commercial boardrooms, sports management, etc.

  • The refusal to retire, to move to an advisory role, to let succession take place while you are still productive, but not nearly as productive as before.
  • The refusal to acknowledge the skill of younger people with relevant experience (the same as you had when you started) and maybe experience needed to remain relevant to those you are leading/controlling.
  • The willingness to let succession happen in a crisis, unexpected, by chance and not care that the hand-off may be incomplete.
  • The willingness to let your sucessor take the role without the value of your advice.

It seems like hubris to me because it lets so many potentially beneficial transition steps get deleted.
….

Interested in discussion of examples of people who ruled too long. Or of the converse; of times when dying in office really is the best way to hand over a role. Or of times when letting someone with advancing dementia remain in a leadership position has actual benefits.

How does a society, or a government or a corporation determine when it is past time. And how could they manage that transition?
 

Shadowy Man

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The TV show Foundation seems to address this well with their Dawn, Day and Dusk emperors.
 

rousseau

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At least in the case of Authoritarian governments there is usually minimal intention of actually serving the country you rule, at least that's rarely the primary goal. The real goal is usually leveraging political power for profit, so there is no motive to step down from power.

Postcolonial Africa is abundant with case studies. Mobotu in Zaire, and later the Congo, for example, ran the nation into the ground but amassed a fortune. He would have been surrounded by others who directly profited and thrived due to his rule. Neo-patrimonialism.

The situation likely isn't much different in the corporate world. A sound and sustainable organization has processes for turning over leadership.

So I guess the question isn't so much about when it's past time, but how to make sure when it's past time that there is actually a transition.
 

laughing dog

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In the case of the UK, it might be hubris on the part of the Queen or maybe she is better informed of the character and ability of her possible successor than we are.
 

Rhea

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So I am also thinking about…. Grassley, Pelosi, Sanders….

Many of those would serve their purpose very well by grooming a sucessor, and then campaigning tirelessly for them.
 

Ford

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Here in 'Murica (speaking of the commercial side) I'd say it is more about drive than hubris.

One of the most interesting people I ever met in my radio career was Dick Clark. The eternal teenager. Mr. American Bandstand. He also had a big business empire, including a syndicated radio network, a television production company, and things like the American Music Awards show.

When I met him, he was around 70 years old. He'd agreed to come in and do our morning radio show, and he personally worked us into his schedule. Well, sort of. He was booked solid from 6am until 10pm that day, and he stopped by our studios at 5:15am. And while his people might have been a bit put out by the last minute addition, he was very accommodating and gracious with his time. That was a typical day for him. He kept up that pace until his stroke 5 years later, and even returned to co-host his New Year's Rockin' Eve special afterwards. I have no doubt that he kept working right up until the day he died.

Was it hubris? I don't think that's the right word. When one of our hosts asked why he - a famous media mogul - went out of his way to do our little radio show, his answer was that he was once where we were...young and just starting out. Back then, he'd written a letter to Steve Allen (creator of The Tonight Show) asking for advice, and he got a personal response with advice and encouragement. Dick decided to pay that forward throughout his life. Another thing I learned (we had multiple interactions with him) is that unlike a lot of celebrities or moguls, he didn't hide behind assistants. If Dick left you a voicemail, and you called the number back, you didn't get a flunky or a secretary. That was actually HIS phone number.

I think that a lot of people who work into their 70s, 80s, or even 90s are simply driven. Clint Eastwood is still directing movies in his 90s. It's not because he needs the money.
 

Rhea

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I totally get *working* until your 70s and 80s. And I agree with your reasons why. The part that has me pondering is the wisdom of being in the executive leadership position, particularly when it is a sole leader like CEO, Queen, Pope, Speaker of the House.

Even if you may still be the “best person for the job,” you leave a gap when you exit suddenly at tha age, and you cannot mentor or advise your replacement.

So Dick Clark did mentor the up and coming, he had a sucession plan, and when he was still working, there were others in equivalent jobs, yanno? He wasn’t mentoring as sole leader, he was mentoring as esteemed contributor. And I agree that is admirable of him.

I admire people who hand over the reins, even if they are still working.
 

zorq

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I have always been of the opinion that the best system of government is an absolutist monarchy, when it is lead by a wise, considerate, and benevolent king. And, of course, the worst system of government is an absolute monarchy, when it is lead by a cruel, careless, and generally evil king. Most monarchs don't fit into either of those categories and instead are simply foolish, short-sighted, and selfish, which is still worse than most democracies and republics. But the point here is that simple lust for power will compel most leaders to hold on to it in perpetuity regardless of their actual intentions to help the people they lead.

We can expect the cruel and selfish to crave power over civic responsibility, but even the benevolent dictator may not trust the inheritor of their power to wield it properly.

I'm reminded of Justice Ginsburg. She likely would have preferred to have president Obama or Biden to nominate her replacement over Trump. But even though she had been battling cancer for a while during Obama's reign, she chose to retain her power over stepping down. Her gambit was unsuccessful and may lead, in the future, to a degradation of whatever positive influence she had, (as she saw it) over the court.
 
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