Batman, Robin, and Steve Ballmer

By Bill Springer on September 3, 2013

By Shannon Bayer

Last week, Ben Affleck was named as the next Batman. This stirred up considerable debate. And even though the Batman franchise has experienced many changes from Michael Keaton in the first installment, to the not so impressive Val Kilmer, a very impressive George Clooney, and the dark and mysterious Christian Bale; the movies have consistently done well. Each of the early Batmans earned around $200 million in the 1980s and 90s, while The Dark Knight Rises earned over $500M and the next installation brought in another $450M.

So, what makes the Batman movies so successful? Is it the love interest? The bad guy? Or, is it…Batman?

What makes this question even more interesting is how it relates to what’s happening in the C-suite at Microsoft. As we’ve all heard, Microsoft recently announced the pending retirement/ouster of its long-time CEO Steve Ballmer. The pundits have also said Ballmer created a great senior executive team, any of whom could be a good contender to replace him. So….who’s the right person to be the next Batman at Microsoft? Since Robin never gets cast as Batman, should Microsoft only be looking outside the organization? Or, is the internal choice actually the better option, a la Tim Cook at Apple?

These same questions apply when you’re looking at your team and succession planning. So, when it comes time to name your next Batman, ask yourself the following questions:

1) Where do you want your company to grow? Are you sustaining your place in the industry as the 90s Batman movies did? Or are you trying to take the market by storm (possibly through disruptive innovation) the way The Dark Knight epics have?

2) How will your audience react to the next Batman? And how will your organization’s productivity and culture be affected by both internal and external hires?

3) Do you really know if the person you are targeting for the job really wants the job? This is something we forget to ask. Whatever candidate you are considering, it’s essential to know they want the role. They must be excited by the opportunity and the direction the organization is taking to move into the future. Imagine Christian Bale barely being engaged in his acting process and trying to take him seriously in his role. I am afraid it might happen to Ben Affleck with all of the bad press around him. Only time will tell. In the end, it is better to secure the genuine interest of the candidate and not merely his or her agreement to sign on.

4) Did you really open your eyes and mind to all of the possible candidates? Don’t limit your options based on the lens you have been applying to your environment in the recent past. When given an opportunity to fill a role, make sure that you consider the nontraditional options too.

And even when you select the best person for the role, don’t forget all of the supporting actors. Sometimes the Joker drives your success and sometimes it is the love interest. Keep in mind that your organization is a system—like a movie cast—that has to work together to truly drive the success of the company.

Who’s your next Batman going to be?

More about Shannon

Shannon Bayer is a Senior Consultant at Linkage. She specializes in providing facilitation and program design for innovation and change leadership. She also works with organizations to improve team effectiveness, negotiation, and coaching. Follow her on Twitter @ShannonJBayer.

Posted in Blog

About Bill Springer

When Bill Springer isn't writing for our Leadership Insights Blog, he's usually pushing a baby stroller, sailing, or riding bikes.....long distances.

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