Intel Prepares Its Top Leaders

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In the spring of 2005, Paul Otellini was scheduled to become the new CEO of the successful chip powerhouse Intel—but first, earning the lofty title meant submitting to a humble exercise: hitting the books. As the first Intel chief executive without a degree in science or engineering, the soft-spoken 53-year-old didn’t have the technical expertise that mentors like ex-CEO Craig Barrett and chairman Andy Grove possessed. Which is why Otellini, the company’s then president and COO, crammed in more than 50 tutorials, on everything from next-generation wireless networks to microprocessor design, with many more to come. The training regimen wasn’t some chore handed down by the human resource management department. It was part of a…show more content…
Every January, he says, the board receives rankings of two dozen or so senior managers. Then it devotes portions of two or three more board meetings to combing through the list. Choosing the CEO, Yoffie says, “is the single most important role of the board.” Intel’s board’s obsession with the future helps foster another crucial element of the system—a gradual shift in duties from one CEO to the next. Moore set the example in the mid-1980s, when he allowed Andy Grove, then his second in command, to gradually assume CEO chores; likewise, in the mid-1990s, Grove steadily ceded his authority to Barrett. In effect, says Les Vadasz, an original employee and former director who has witnessed every CEO hire, “The successor gets the job before he gets the title.” Training successors in a methodical and orderly manner is all but unheard of in Silicon Valley, where founders can hold on too long and where talk of life without the chief is often heretical. Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, remains synonymous with the company he founded—and returned to save in 1997. But how many more years will that be possible? Scott McNealy, the outspoken co-founder and ex-CEO of Sun Microsystems, suffered high turnover in his senior ranks in part because he refused to step aside for more than two decades at the top. At Intel, CEOs and their apprentices swap roles to streamline performance where it’s needed. The practice flows out of a wider Intel ideal, known internally

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