Lego has made its second CEO appointment in the space of eight months, announcing that Niels Christiansen – current leader of Dutch manufacturer Danfoss – will step into the role that has been occupied since January by Bali Padda.
As interim CEO, the British-born Padda was the first non-Danish leader in Lego’s 85-year history, stepping up from the role of COO – and there’s every sign that the company was impressed by his performance. “Bali has been part of the Lego Group family for the past 15 years,” said former CEO Jorgen Vig Nordstrop, who has maintained links with the firm. “He played an integral role in the turnaround of the Lego Group, and during his time as CEO created a solid foundation from which to continue to transform the company.”
Padda – who will continue to hold a special-advisory role in the firm – joins the ranks of caretaker leaders who have successfully kept brands ticking over during times of change. It may be difficult to conceive of now in the light of his mythical image, but a certain Steve Jobs was hired as interim CEO for Apple back in 1997, re-joining the company he’d once founded – and we all know how that turned out. So what are the essential skills and qualities that an interim CEO needs to keep a company on track?
The Institute of Leadership & Management's CEO Phil James says: “The most important thing is that the individual takes the role seriously and focuses on making it a success, despite its short-term duration. It’s also crucial to honour the caretaking aspect of the post and try not to radically change anything that has been working well, so that the organisation can be passed on to the permanent replacement in good shape”
James notes: “As with any senior leadership position, you’re only as good as the people around you. So whether you’re an interim or in it for the longer term, it’s about building those relationships and trusting the people that you work for. An interim from the board will already understand the company culture, and hopefully maintain some of the best elements of what people liked about the outgoing CEO.
“But there could also be opportunities to correct some things that you didn’t think your predecessor did quite as well as they could – and ensure that those adjustments last into the tenure of the incoming permanent CEO. Was your predecessor visible enough? Were they well known enough among the staff? Did they get to know the customers? Did they manage remotely, or were they more hands on?”
James adds: “If you develop an interest in taking up the job on a permanent basis, then excel in your people skills and grasp of the culture so that the board will think that giving the post to anyone else would be a mistake. If you’re doing it because it suits you to be an interim, then have a comprehensive handover strategy in place.”
For thoughts on how to adapt your leadership style, check out this learning item from the Institute
Image of managerial Lego gentleman courtesy of Ekaterina_Minaeva, via Shutterstock