The first rule of management is that successful management is actually more about how you manage yourself rather than being about how you manage others (see “First rule of management” posted June 25, 2012).

The second rule of management is that the key to your own success is totally dependent on the success of your people (see “Second rule of management” posted September 24, 2012).

The third rule of management is that no man is an island, and you need to build a network in all directions (see “Third rule of management” posted October 1, 2012).

The fourth rule of management is that you do not manage people, but you manage their behaviour (see “Fourth rule of management” posted October 15, 2012).

The fifth rule of management is that if you are serious about moving up, you need to first move sideways (see “Fifth rule of management” posted November 5, 2012).

The sixth rule of management is that you should not over-manage your people (see “Sixth rule of management” posted November 19, 2012).

The seventh rule of management is that if you don’t manage the financials they will manage you (see “Seventh rule of management” posted Nov 26th, 2012).

The eighth rule of management is to keep it simple (see “Eighth Rule of management” posted January 21, 2012).

The ninth rule of management is that it’s meant to be fun for all those involved around you (see “Ninth rule of management” posted February 4th, 2013).

The tenth rule of management is that it’s important that you know when to hand over the reins and move on.

Author: Emiel Ketelaar, FrozenImage; GFDL & CC-BY-SA license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Emiel Ketelaar, FrozenImage; GFDL & CC-BY-SA license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: srslyguys; CC BY 1.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: srslyguys; CC BY 1.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons










I have long believed that a manager should not be allowed to sit in the same role for more than about 5-6 years (see “How do you know when you should step aside” posted April 12th, 2012), this limit to a term of office becoming even more critical the higher up the ladder one climbs.

I see that after about 5-6 years most managers are starting to feel too comfortable in their current role and tend to prefer protecting their own implementations, rather than to drive the innovation and changes that are needed for continued success in an ever-changing business environment, particularly if those implementations have served one well. This behaviour is unfortunately re-enforced by the fact that managers tend to be rewarded more for protecting the corporate status quo than for driving dramatic creativity and change, for other than product innovation.

In the same way that most people are loath to throw out a pair of well worn, well fitting, comfortable shoes, most managers are loath to throw out the strategies that have brought them success in the past.

Author: Medjaï; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Medjaï; via Wikimedia Commons

I have realised over the last 45 years of working in the IT industry,that as soon as it all starts to make sense to me, someone goes and changes it all, and that this is happening with increasing rapidity.

In this, I have absolutely no doubt that I am not alone, but I am regularly surprised that I continue to come across senior business people who believe that what they did yesterday to be successful will continue to succeed today and into the future.

When it all starts to feel really comfortable, and you believe that you have all the answers, it is definitely time to move on and let someone else take over, as it really needs someone who will still be somewhat uncomfortable in the role.

Another real sign that your time in the current role is up, is when you start to get a sense that you are seeing the same issues and their solutions keep re-surfacing. I have recently heard a number of “old hands” in the IT industry state that this whole move to “on demand” computing (SaaS) is just another version, and is just a re-jig, of the bureau movement that exploded in the 1970s through availability of interactive computing from companies like DEC. Yes, it probably is, but it will require new strategies if it is to deliver real benefit to businesses, and the “here we go again” attitude is just another sign that fresh approaches, and different people, will be needed to make it all successful.

I spoke to one senior executive who told me that he had realised it was time to pass on the baton when he ran out of space in his office for his collection of memorabilia, and at the same time realised that he would need to have the carpet replaced under his desk because of the ruts from his chair’s wheels. Another told me that his realisation came when he realised that he was prefacing many of his statements with “stop me if you’ve heard this before” and “I may have already told you this but … “.

There are many signs … it is just critical that you recognise them.

A great manager will always have spent some considerable time and effort building at least one capable successor, and to withhold the opportunity for leadership from that person in the long term will not only risk their frustration, but will also risk their departure, locking you even more rigidly into the current role. In the same way that you need to develop your direct reports, you should have also spent time developing yourself along the way (with your boss’s help and support) in readiness for you to move on to the next challenge when the time is right.

There is little question that your successor will consider themselves to be ready to step up before you do (didn’t we all), but it is your responsibility to ensure that when they can, with some real chance of success, they should be given the opportunity to do so.

Your successor should be given the chance to build his own directions and make his own mistakes, rather than to have to go on living with yours forever.

As said by Donald Rumsfeld, American politician and businessman

“Have a deputy and develop a successor. Don’t be consumed by the job or you’ll risk losing your balance. Keep your mooring lines to the outside world.”

DoD photo by R. D. Ward; via Wikimedia Commons

DoD photo by R. D. Ward; via Wikimedia Commons



  1. Frank says:

    Les, totally agree, with everything you’ve written here. I’ve found moving upwards or onwards every 5-6 years fun; taking the accumulated and learned experiences to new challenges, in our now turbo charged changing industry, where consumers have expectations of 100% availabilty and accuracy everytime (really they expect more than 100% service levels). Regards, Frank

    • leshayman says:

      Frank, the important thing about moving “upwards and onwards” is that it is more likely to happen if you have a great successor (or two) waiting in the blocks. Les

      • Frank says:

        Les, agree, that goes without saying. In my career I’ve found that getting the right successors in place mean I get bored as they take over and enjoy the empowerment, and that’s when I look for new challenges and know it is time to go.

      • leshayman says:

        Frank, spot on, and they help to push you up just to get you out of their way. Les 🙂

  2. Mukesh Gupta says:

    Very well said Les.. Also, there is a difference in having a deputy and grooming a successor.. Need to understand that usually it’s best to haven two different people for these 2 roles.. A deputy, would be more likely to follow your footsteps than take a different path.. A successor needs to re-look at the environment and comes up with his own understanding and thereby decide his path..

    • leshayman says:

      Mukesh, well said and I agree 100%. A deputy is generally more of a follower who supports your status quo, whereas a successor should plot his own path. When the two roles diverge, it is critical that you set expectations properly and get the buy-in from higher up as they may mistake the roles from afar. Les

  3. Bruce Rankin says:

    Hi Les, an excellent summary to your series – if indeed this was the 10th and last! Time now put them all into a book, along with your other related posts? Have very much enjoyed reading them. Best, Bruce

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