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Never Allow a New Boss to Be the 'Chosen One'

22/04/2014 11:39 BST | Updated 21/06/2014 10:59 BST

There hasn't been a worse hand-picked successor since Howard Taft, widely recognised as one of the most hopeless Presidents in American politics.

Poor old David Moyes may be humiliated by an appalling first and only season at the helm of Manchester United but at least his predecessor, Sir Alex Ferguson - the man who chose him for the role - hasn't labelled him as someone with 'brains less than a guinea pig'. That was Teddy Roosevelt's withering assessment of the incompetent man he assisted in getting the top job. It was too late by then, as it is for Moyes, who will be well recompensed for his catastrophic tenure but is unlikely to manage a 'top, top' club ever again.

What his unfortunate experience demonstrates is the inherent risk in allowing an outgoing boss to choose his successor. It just doesn't work. Nobody likes a 'chosen one'. Those lower down the pecking order - and invariably more talented - resent being passed over for someone who showed extraordinary prowess in ingratiating hero-worship. Staff who once walked across coals to please the (now retired) boss, question his successor's abilities since there wasn't much rigour in selection.

Smirking powerbrokers and critics are too eager to let loose with their sharpened knives. And so the new incumbent, whose ease in landing the top post meant he or she has had no need to outline a vision, is on a hiding to nothing.

Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro, Hugo Chavez's preferred successor, is an unmitigated disaster in part because he cannot escape the shadow of his far more popular and effective benefactor. When Steve Spielberg was handpicked by a then-ill Stanley Kubrick to turn his Artificial Intelligence script to the big screen it was doomed from the word go - the anointed one could never live up to the expectations.

Children who inherit their parent's business invariably screw it up to begin with because, essentially, they're just 'lucky sperm', as one of my more inspiring bosses used to call them. Just because they share the surname doesn't mean they inherited the talent too.

For a succession to work properly, it can't be a foregone conclusion, with little more than a bottle of fine claret and a handshake to go on.

But most importantly, the retiree must be removed from the equation entirely. They're not thinking about the future, they're more concerned with the past. Will the new man (or woman) destroy their legacy, be better than them, change their 'proven' ways of winning, invite them back for friendly chats and nuggets of advice?

That's the mistake Manchester United's normally hard-headed owners made. They allowed a man they were in awe of - Sir Alex Ferguson - to shape the brand and his legacy with a nod and a wink.

He ensured The Chosen One got the job without anyone asking if he was up to it. Luckily for Manchester United, Moyes failed alarmingly quickly and so the decline need not be too protracted.

But a costly lesson has been learnt. A new boss should be a new broom, not an old mate.