A horse race is a contest of skills and judgment where the participants try to win by coaxing the most out of their horses. When it comes to a company’s succession process, many directors are intensely worried that a protracted horse race will disrupt business momentum and damage the organization.
In fact, a well-designed succession horse race can be an effective means to ensure that a company has the best leader available and at the same time give talented managers the chance to prove their abilities to other executives and even board members. The practice is rooted in a long tradition of leadership development that places high priority on spotting talent, developing it through a series of functional assignments and stretch opportunities, and testing it in increasingly demanding roles.
The horse race, also known as the corporate horse race or the power struggle, is a common management strategy in which a company’s top executives compete for the job of chief executive officer. Despite its widespread use, the horse race is fraught with risks and pitfalls. The practice can erode trust in the board, discourage employee loyalty and, in some cases, result in a destructive battle of wills between executives. However, when the horse race is done correctly, it can provide a valuable leadership tool and create a strong culture of accountability in a company.
Behind the romanticized facade of Thoroughbred racing — where spectators display their fancy clothes and sip mint juleps — lies a world of gruesome injuries, drug abuse and slaughter. The horses are forced to sprint — often under the threat of whips and illegal electric-shocking devices — at speeds that can cause traumatic injuries and hemorrhage from their lungs.
To make matters worse, many of these horses are mistreated and neglected, and the horse industry is plagued with corruption. A recent report by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found that horse race trainers are more likely to abuse or neglect horses than any other industry. The report found that a majority of trainers do not follow basic welfare and training standards, and that the majority of horses race on unsafe or unsuitable tracks.
In an effort to improve safety and welfare in the horse racing industry, lawmakers have proposed a number of measures, including a ban on the use of electric shockers, and the creation of a task force to prosecute horse abusers. The American Horse Council supports these proposals, and urges the federal government to take action against the criminal activity that continues to plague the industry.