How to Conduct a Fair and Transparent Board Horse Race

The term horse race describes a contest in which participants — usually humans on horseback or pulling sulkies — try to pass other runners while racing a set distance. A typical horse race involves dozens or even hundreds of competitors, each aiming to be the first one across the finish line. The race is often contested by teams that are not evenly matched, and the winning team has to be able to manage its rivals in order to win. This type of competition can be very exciting for spectators, and it is often considered the epitome of sporting excellence.

The sport of horse racing is, by many measures, a brutal affair. Injuries and death are commonplace, and the industry is not above using cocktails of legal and illegal drugs to mask pain and enhance performance. For example, horses are often given a drug called furosemide (better known as Lasix), which is essentially a performance-enhancing drug cloaked as a medication. In addition, horses are often subjected to training and racing at a very young age, which can be particularly dangerous.

Despite these dangers, most horse races are extremely entertaining. The competition is fast and furious, and the results are often close and dramatic. The winning team usually needs to have the skill and judgment to coax its rivals into a stride that will put it ahead of the pack, and the euphoria of victory can be infectious.

A successful horse race can yield a great deal of excitement, and it can also be very profitable. It is, however, important for a board to ensure that the horse race is conducted in a way that is fair and transparent, and that it does not lead to lingering distrust within the organization. In particular, the board should consider whether the horse race will cause it to lose other high-performing executives who would have been vying for the top spot and strong leaders deeper in the organization who might have aligned themselves with an unsuccessful candidate.

Many directors are intensely fearful that a protracted succession horse race will destroy business momentum, and they work mightily to limit the length of the contest. They also strive to create an environment in which employees embrace the idea that they will have a chance to compete for the top position, and the idea that the company’s best leader will emerge from the contest. This strategy, if executed properly, can be an effective tool for choosing a highly qualified CEO. But if the process is flawed or overly rushed, it can have a devastating impact on an organization and should be avoided. In this regard, the board should make sure that it is familiar with the various strategies for managing a horse race, and it should also have a clear understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of each approach.