Daniel Gross just posted a brilliant opinion piece on slate.com where he predicts the ascension of Steve Jobs to the throne of the Disney empire. Robert Iger is Disney’s calming, conservative successor to the legendary general Robert Eisner. His acquistion of Job’s Pixar films is touted as a win-win for both companies. However, Gross makes the historical argument that when a CEO acquires a smaller stronger company, the acquired CEO’s bullish talent overthrows the top job in a sort of natural selection order of things.
In addition to the historical corporate evidence, there is also conventional leadership advice. In Robert Greene’s best-selling 48 Laws Of Power, we learn “avoid stepping into a great man’s shoes”. Iger did this by suceeding Eisner, regardless of what you think about his predecessor. Furthermore, by acquiring Jobs, he’s now going to be immediatly compared/contrasted against another great leader.
If this predicted supplanting comes to fruition, Iger will have essentially led himself out of a job. He did what he thought was best for the company, but may have done so at his own peril. The point here is that if you are going to succeed or ally yourself with a super-star, make sure you are either a big enough star to manage it, or you’re willing to walk off into the sunset, riding on your laurels.