Executive Rewind: He Evaluates CEOs

Experts come in many varieties. In a recent post, we highlighted an example of how using your expertise about an industry can help you build a great reputation and a competitive advantage by having good relationships with the media.

There also are experts who have become readily available third parties and media favorites for commentary on business leadership and leaders.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld* is an oft-used expert from the Yale School of Management. Business media typically flock to him when there is major change, or trouble at corporations. So, when David Calhoun** was tapped to take over from Dennis Muilenburg as CEO of Boeing after the mishandling of the 737 Max8 crisis, CNBC called on Sonnenfeld for his analysis.

And, Sonnenfeld adds, Calhoun has lots of constituencies to balance:

Sonnenfeld says Calhoun is well-prepared and experienced for this job. But, then there’s the question which is the better option, hiring from outside the company, or promoting from within:

Calhoun is a bit of a hybrid in this inside-vs-outside debate. He’s been on the Boeing board, and served for a brief time as board chairman as the crisis grew, so he does have inside knowledge, even though the majority of his executive experience has been in other areas.

Then there’s the case of John Donahoe***, the new CEO of Nike. An outsider coming from a different industry:

So, according to Sonnenfeld, in times of crisis like the Boeing situation, promoting from within is more advantageous.

Do some introspection. Consider your years of experience and how they can be of value to the media. They like following the path of least resistance, and if you create relationships and demonstrate your expertise and easy access, you’ll find the media will be calling on you as needed.


*Jeffrey Sonnenfeld is an academic, Lester Crown Professor in the Practice of Management at Yale School of Management, and Senior Associate Dean for Leadership Studies. Sonnenfeld is the founder of Chief Executive Leadership Institute, a non-profit educational and research institute focused on CEO leadership and corporate governance.
**David L. Calhoun is an American businessman and former chairman of The Boeing Company. Calhoun was appointed president and CEO-designate of Boeing on December 23, 2019, and assumed the president and CEO role on January 13, 2020. He was appointed after the former CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, resigned amidst safety issues regarding the Boeing 737-MAX after two fatal crashes occurred.
***John Joseph Donahoe II is an American businessman who is the CEO of Nike. Early in his career he worked for Bain & Company, becoming the firm’s president and CEO in 1999. He is on the board of directors at Nike, The Bridgespan Group and is chairman of PayPal. Donahoe was named president and CEO of ServiceNow, a cloud company, in February 2017.

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