Leadership: Why A Team Of Rivals Can Be A Plus For A CEO

Filed Under: Leadership, More News

Recently I read a great biography about Abraham Lincoln, written by Doris Kearns Goodwin, “Team of Rivals – The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.” In it she recounts how Lincoln, upon his election to the presidency in 1860, deliberately sought out those who had run against him in the election so that he could have them serve with him in his administration.

I mention the president’s pursuit of his rivals to illustrate several of the ways in which a business owner can work with an executive search consultant to hire a CEO to run their company.

Selfless Attitude and Approach

President Lincoln practiced a selfless attitude and approach in asking his rivals to serve on his cabinet as he did not believe he was any better than either of the men he campaigned against. He simply wanted the best for the country. Similarly, a business owner intent on hiring a CEO can have that same selfless attitude and approach so that s/he hires the best person for her/his company.

Collaborative Dialogue

President Lincoln engaged in a collaborative dialogue with his advisors as he developed his cabinet, ensuring there was a balance between the competing political and geographic interests of the country. Similarly, a business owner, guided by the executive search consultant, can engage her/his executive team and key business advisors in development of an ideal CEO candidate profile, with this profile then informing the search consultant in the search process.


Yes, President Lincoln took time to ensure that he secured the pledges of each of the men that he asked, patiently waiting for each of them to agree to serve with him. Neither did he rush them or pressure them. He respected their ability to make an informed decision to join him and others to govern the country.  Similarly, a business owner can be patient in the process of finding the CEO for the business.

An effective search process requires research, a talent assessment of candidates, interviews, background investigations and reference interviews, as well as the eventual offer to hire and compensation discussions.  As the owner goes through this process, patience becomes an important part of a successful outcome as the owner focuses upon the future growth of her/his company.

As with President Lincoln’s quest to develop his cabinet with his team of rivals, the owner’s company, as was our nation, becomes a significant beneficiary.

Warren Rutherford is president of The Executive Suite, an executive search firm with offices in Boston and Hyannis. More information at https://www.theexecutivesuite.com/about-us/