Martinez's successor: "outsider" wanted

02 December 2022

Opvolger Martinez

After the disastrous result at the World Cup, the Belgian football association must look for a successor for Roberto Martinez who kept the honor to himself on Thursday. Football club Anderlecht has meanwhile recruited a noble unknown from Denmark as the new head coach. But who is the best candidate: someone from their own stable, an insider, or an outsider, from outside the organization?

Also last week, lingerie manufacturer Van De Velde had to look for a new CEO for the fourth time in 6 years. There have often been debates about whether companies are better off with a CEO from outside or within their own organization. Because the succession of a CEO, or a coach in the case of the Belgian Football Association, is not an innocent choice. American research has shown in the past that a CEO change not only has an impact on the internal culture, but can usually also improve the reputation of companies - although companies that already enjoy a very good reputation usually experience a short decline after a succession. This indicates that such a change at the top of an organization can be disruptive and jeopardize a strong reputation. This is especially true for large companies that receive more media attention and are therefore more closely followed by the outside world.

In general, research indicates that companies with a CEO successor from their own ranks perform better and prove to be more profitable than companies that opt for an outsider. An internal successor is perceived as more 'status quo' oriented. This avoids uncertainty about possible disruptions and the future of the company. Steve Jobs' choice years ago to be succeeded at Apple by Tim Cook (who had been on board for 10 years and thus the prototype of an 'insider') has done Apple no harm in that respect.

Visionary companies - such as Apple - will prepare, promote and select management talent internally much more than other companies. They do this consciously to preserve their core business and core values for the future. It is not so much the quality of the leadership that makes the difference as the continuity of the quality of the leadership.

A company, or a football club, with a poorer reputation, or in crisis, on the other hand, often sees its reputation improve, due to the recruitment of an outsider because there is an expectation that an external CEO can change that.

The question remains: will the Belgian Football Association choose an insider who is familiar with the internal cuisine and culture of the Red Devils, or will it be an outsider? If you ask my advice, the association will soon choose an outsider, even a foreigner, to blow the wind in the sails of the sunken ship of the Red Devils, with a new generation of players. There is a need for a shock effect that you cannot possibly achieve with former internationals from our country, genre Preud'homme, Vermaelen or Vercauteren. Such an 'old boys club' would be another step backwards. The great merit of Martinez (as a Spaniard, and not bound or hindered by a Belgian football past) was that he has allowed a talented generation to rise to the top of the world in a few years, with the 3rd place at the 2018 World Cup, as the absolute highlight. There is a need for a new Martinez.