At a recent Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting, Warren Buffett indicated that he made a mistake in underestimating the business brilliance of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. Buffett has since lavished praise on Bezos, calling him the greatest businessman alive. Bezos’ leadership over Amazon has been so great that John Malone has described Amazon as the “death star” approaching every business industry in the world for eventual destruction.
I have long been interested in the steps that business leaders take to ensure continuity, or in other words, plan their own obsolescence. The best business leaders set aside the ego gratification that would come upon the subsequent generation’s failures to step into their shoes and instead take efforts to “institutionalize” the business so that it would continue to prosper even if the brilliant founder were no longer running the show.