Riding Shotgun | Nate Bennett

Summary of: Riding Shotgun: The Role of the COO, Updated Edition
By: Nate Bennett


Embark on a fascinating exploration of the complex and challenging role of a chief operating officer (COO) with Nate Bennett’s book, ‘Riding Shotgun: The Role of the COO, Updated Edition’. Dive into the intricacies of the COO’s responsibilities, which include providing support to the CEO, overseeing business operations, building relationships with a diverse array of individuals, and making crucial financial and personnel decisions. The book sheds light on various COO frameworks, their evolving job descriptions, and the challenges they face while creating a trustworthy partnership with the CEO. This summary will guide you through the key themes and insights of the book, allowing you to grasp the importance and uniqueness of the COO position in contemporary organizations.

Mastering the Complex Role of a COO

The book delves into the intricacies of the COO’s job and underscores the importance of building a healthy partnership with the CEO.

The role of a Chief Operating Officer in any company may be considered the most challenging position as he or she needs to provide full support to the CEO, yet is responsible for important and difficult decisions. The book argues that a COO’s primary role is to make the CEO successful, even if it means taking a back seat and receiving little recognition. The job involves managing multiple large concerns that impact the company’s efficiency.

The author emphasizes that COOs’ roles and responsibilities differ from one company to another, and some firms are unsure of how to structure the position or choose a suitable candidate. However, the book asserts that the key to success once a company has a COO is to establish a credible and trusting partnership with the CEO. The author stresses that loyalty and trust between the two positions are fundamental, as the CEO must not view the COO as a threat to his or her power base.

In conclusion, the book encourages readers to understand and appreciate the complex role played by COOs and the vital role they play in any organization.

The Role of a COO

A Chief Operating Officer (COO) is responsible for offering competent leadership, initiating major initiatives, developing a strong relationship with the CEO, providing guidance to an inexperienced CEO, sharing knowledge with the CEO’s successor, and retaining talented executives.

The Role of COO in Corporate Succession

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) occupies a unique position in a company’s hierarchy and can either facilitate or disrupt the installation process depending on personal chemistry, corporate culture, and job description. The appointment of a COO from external sources is often risky, says the book. In the case of IBM’s Lou Gerstner, he selected an insider, Sam Palmisano, for the position and concentrated on the daily operations rather than becoming CEO. Intel emphasizes CEO succession and promotes from within, minimizing disruptions. Microsoft has changed its COO philosophy several times in the past, with CEO Bill Gates bringing in outsiders and promoting from within while operating without a COO during leadership transitions. The CEO’s effort, time, and personal humility are often stretched with the appointment of a COO.

Disney’s Troubled Transition

When Michael Eisner hired Michael Ovitz as his second in command at Disney after the tragic death of Frank Wells, several key errors were made. Eisner never defined Ovitz’s role, nor did he consider if Ovitz was a good match for the Disney culture. There was no assistance given for a smooth transition, a grave misstep given Disney’s history and strong culture. This lack of clarity and support caused Ovitz to clash with key executives and display a poor attitude, resulting in the failed transition and lasting impact on the company.

Carly Fiorina’s Lesson in Leadership

Hewlett-Packard’s former CEO Carly Fiorina’s leadership style demonstrated that stubbornness may not always lead to the best decisions. Despite orchestrating a significant acquisition, Fiorina refused to hire a COO, leading to missed opportunities and challenges. The absence of a COO highlighted her lack of operational experience, ultimately contributing to her failure as a leader. This serves as a valuable lesson for leaders who may overlook their limitations and need for help.

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