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Politics and Business Can Learn From Chelsea's Management

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I'm guessing the swift departure of Chelsea's manager Andreas Villas-Boas produced a wry smile in a few corporate boardrooms. Why? By no means all CEOs have Abramovich-like owners hovering over their every decision, but the need to deliver instant results is a pain they do share.

In a tough economic climate, CEOs are given less time to prove themselves, and face bigger barriers to succeed, whether legal threats, political regulations or media crises.

No surprise then that just as football manager tenure has fallen, so the length of time a CEO can expect to be in post is getting shorter.

When Terry Leahy stood down from Tesco last year, he ended a reign of 14 successful years at the top - the Alex Ferguson of the business world. However that sort of tenure is a rare thing these days. 40% of CEOs are out within two years and the median tenure is around four years.

And as with Chelsea, who're on to their sixth manager in the same number of years, changing CEOs can become habit forming. For example, after GM went bankrupt, the business saw three CEOs in less than two years, making Abramovich look positively ponderous.

The critics of AVB's departure complain that allowing him only eight months in the role was too short a time for him to rebuild the team, change the culture and make his mark on Chelsea's performance.

So too for short-lived CEOs. Expectations that an instant-on manager can transform the business prospects of a company overnight are unrealistic. Of course immediate milestones can be set, but delivering real and meaningful change to brand and corporate reputation is a long-term challenge.

Small comfort perhaps but CEO tenure is still lengthy compared to that of senior politicians. According to think tank research, Ministerial jobs last on average less than two years. Like football managers, many politicians are very short-term focused, looking only as far as the next day's papers. But who wouldn't be when there's no such thing as long-term job security? Short-term expectations breed short-termist leaders, only in for the immediate impact they can make and with little desire to tackle the bigger, intractable problems.

For anyone who doubts the impact of constant change at the top, my own team, Grimsby Town, provides the best case study. In the second flight of football in 2000, the next eleven years saw the club suffer three relegations at the hands of fourteen managers, each there barely enough time for the Club to print the managers' initials on their tracksuits.

We all enjoy the back page headlines about who's in and who's out. But the troubles at the top of football are a paradigm for wider challenges facing leaders of politics and business. The lesson for business from Chelsea should be that a merry-go-round at the top doesn't help you achieve your goals. In an increasingly short-termist world, a bit more managerial stability would be very welcome.