The news that the Board of Directors for the IndyCar series (Hulman & Co.) had fired CEO Randy Bernard has certainly caused an uproar. By all accounts, despite the official press release from IndyCar stating that the split was mutually agreed upon, all indications are that Bernard was indeed fired. Anyone who has followed the IndyCar series for at least a few years should know that the dysfunctional family that is IndyCar changes leadership about every 18-24 months, as if one guy is going to come in riding a white horse and save the series.
Interestingly, while Randy Bernard was well-liked and respected by the fans of IndyCar, he was generally unpopular in the paddock with both the owners and the drivers. Given that Bernard is the former CEO of the Professional Bullriders Association, he did not have any knowledge of what it takes to run a team in professional motorsports or the dangers that the drivers face, but he knew how to draw and retain fans, and so the series from the fan’s point of view is great, while from the owner’s point of view, not so great. From what I can gather, Bernard’s lack of communication with the car owners on the subject of the cost of spare parts and the possibility of a new tire supplier for the series pretty much was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In the parlance of stick and ball sports, Bernard had lost the locker room and never got it back.
What is to be learned from this? Well, the notion that one person can provide leadership to a dysfunctional organization is flat outdated and is a recipe for failure. It takes a team of committed, talented individuals pulling towards one vision (that is established by the leader), to make stuff happen in this day and age of specialization. You may love the idea of having one strong leader that is everything to everybody, but the truth is that a leader is supposed to create and communicate a vision for the future and then manage the managers who are experts in their fields. It is the managers who are supposed to implement actions in a specific area that, taken as a whole, will drive the organization towards the vision expressed by the leader. This is true of sports, business and politics. To not have a management structure in place such as I have described is to set the new IndyCar CEO up for failure, and we will be talking about this again in another couple of years.
Somewhere in Texas