Act like a steward. That’s it – the single most important secret to success for a leader taking over from the founder. If you get it, there’s no reason to read any further. But if you don’t, the consequences can be dire.

Not convinced? Just look at the missteps of Kevin Rollins (former President and CEO of Dell), Bob Nardelli (former CEO of Home Depot), John Scully (former CEO of Apple) and Donn Tatum (former president and chairman of Disney). Simply put, they did not get it. Conversely, Meg Whitman at eBay, Eric Schmidt at Google, Steve Balmer at Microsoft and Fred Langhammer at Estee Lauder all got it. They understood the meaning of stewardship.

The differences yield three tips to consider when taking over from a company founder:

  1. Think and act like an interim steward, caring for and managing the business until someone else’s turn to take the reins
  2. Honor and respect the founders, and what they and their team have built
  3. Stand on their shoulders and propel the organization forward

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