20 October 2018
Instead of proving to the world how capable she is, CE-elect Carrie Lam (center) should work on drawing support from her team. Photo: HKEJ
Instead of proving to the world how capable she is, CE-elect Carrie Lam (center) should work on drawing support from her team. Photo: HKEJ

What Carrie Lam can learn from ‘CEO’s first 100 days’ theory

According to a popular management theory, the first 100 days in office is critical to a new chief executive. Harvard Business Review did a study on this issue and its findings might provide some useful insight for Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam.

Most new CEOs are eager to show their mettle to their staff and everyone else, to prove that they are the smartest and most knowledgeable. 

But the truth is, no CEO knows everything. Even the most competent boss still needs the support of colleagues.

If CEOs worry too much about their image, they may have difficulties seeking other people’s views and help when necessary.

Subordinates, on the other hand,  may also be hesitant to share their good ideas or tell their boss the truth.

Lam is well known for her toughness. She was a straight-A student, and in government service, she built a reputation of being a hard-working and highly efficient official.

She should understand, however, that omniscience is unattainable and does not guarantee great leadership.

Running a city is far more complicated than running a company. Instead of proving to the world how capable she is, it’s far better for Lam to work on drawing support from her team.

The second myth is that new CEOs should recruit the best talents.

The Harvard study discovered that a collection of top-notch talents who fail to work together is worse than a group of above-average players who can work as a team.

The existing team of the current administration has been widely criticized. Some are even regarded as liabilities for the chief executive rather than assets.

Lam is very likely to recruit new team members. It would do her good to look for team players, rather than individual superstars, as team work is the key to a highly efficient administration, not individual abilities.

The third myth is that new CEOs should make an impact as soon as possible, that they should notch up “quick wins” early in their term of office.

Such a mentality could easily lead to mistakes and failures, and the new leader would then be forced to backtrack.

Lam is keen to restore public confidence, but she should take her time, starting with easier tasks and leaving controversial issues like political reform, land policy and education reform to a later stage.

The fourth myth is new CEOs are often eager to prove that they are “not the other guy”.

Critics have branded Lam as “Leung Chun-ying 2.0”, someone who would just follow the management style and policies of the incumbent leader.

Consequently, Lam may want to prove her critics wrong and do everything to shed that image as soon as possible.

But she should be careful not to overdo it. In fact, she should endeavor to pursue the good policies of CY Leung, such as increasing home supply and promoting tech innovation.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 27

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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