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Does a change in leadership lead to a change in strategy?

This article was previously published on the Leadership Foundation website.

Barclays Bank has chosen a new chief executive to replace Anthony Jenkins who was sacked in July of this year. Jenkins, in turn, replaced Bob Diamond. Mr. Diamond, an investment banker, was responsible for building the company’s investment bank, but was forced to resign by the regulator following the circumstances around the rigging of the London Interbank Offer Rate (LIBOR) coming to light.

The Bank’s choice of an investment banker in contrast to Jenkins, who had a background in retail banking, has led to questions being raised about the Barclay’s future direction.

Barclay’s current strategy involves reducing the size of its investment bank, which uses a large part of the Bank’s capital. The investment bank’s reported profits have been highly volatile, and the organisation is judged to have underperformed.

The Bank’s current strategy, despite denials of any change, appears to sit oddly with its choice of a new chief executive. Subject to regulatory approval, Jes Stanley, a hedge fund manager, with a background in investment banking is expected to become the company’s new chief executive.

Given the differences of culture and ways of operating which characterise the different fields of banking, a key question when seeking a new chief executive is what is the appropriate balance between specific knowledge of a particular aspect of the business, and broader, more general, leadership skills and knowledge? For example, some commentators on the appointment of Mr, Stanley suggests that rather than focusing on his investment banking background, it is important to recognise his strengths include a keen idea for detail and an interest in corporate culture.

The question of the balance of skills sought when appointing a new leader is not just confined to banking, but is also germane to higher education. It is a question that governing bodies need to think carefully about when seeking a new head of institution.

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