We spend a lot of time talking about the qualities of great leaders, we spend much less time talking about the combination of having the right two at the top, and the enormously positive power this can wield.
This year when Charlie Munger died, I wasn’t thinking about his business success. All I could think about was the relationship at the top – a lifetime of two of the most successful investors of our time, who had worked together for 40+ years.
They built an empire of successful companies, based on common sense principals, and practically coined the term ‘value investing.’ Once they had built their company, and supported many hundreds of portfolio businesses, they then built a charity. ‘I don’t need more money where I’m going’ Charlie Munger.
Making it simple
In antithesis to many investment professionals, they purposely went about making what they did look as simple as possible. Buffet always said he learned more from Munger (a lawyer) than some of his top investment advisors.
‘It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price. Charlie understood this early; I was a slow learner. Now, when buying companies or common stocks, we look for first-class businesses accompanied by first-class managements,” Buffett said to Berkshire shareholders in a 1989 annual letter.
This simple principal allowed Berkshire Hathaway to make some of it’s best investment decisions and defined the companies success.
Why two is better than one
Over the years I’ve been working as an exec recruiter, I’ve come to realise that at the top of many leading businesses there is not just one person, but in fact two. They are like two halves of the same brain. Successful duos sit at the top of many leading businesses. Often, there is one that is less seen than the other, but they work like two halves of the same brain.
Successful leadership duos work a bit like successful couples. The same rules of relationship apply. There is an almost magical balance of enough significant differences and similarities.
There is both ease, and friction. But in the right amounts.
The differences create opportunities for mutual learning and engender respect. The similarities forge common values and trust, which allows you to basically say almost anything to the other person.
Here are the top 6 indicators you’re in a successful leadership duo;
- You can laugh together, like really laugh
- You learn from one another, because you are different to each another
- You talk honestly, rarely taking the other person’s view the ‘wrong way’
- You have mutual respect and admiration for each other
- You make each other better people, reflecting better both inside and outside work
If you find someone like this, you probably need to spend as much time working with them as possible, in any format you can.
“Berkshire Hathaway could not have been built to its present status without Charlie’s inspiration, wisdom and participation,” Buffett said about his friend’s death.
The two friends first met in Omaha in 1959 at a diner with their wives, and immediately hit it off, apparently laughing so hard they practically fell off their chairs.
They had worked at Buffett’s grandfather’s grocery store as teenagers, but at completely different times, as Charlie was 7 years older. I certainly think that this background probably created a similarity in their upbringing that meant very similar values, the foundation of trust.
“I knew.. after a few minutes in the restaurant, I knew that this guy’s going to be in my life forever,” Buffett told CNBC in 2021. “We were gonna have fun together, we were gonna make money together, we were gonna get ideas from each other. We were both going to behave better than if we didn’t know each other.”
Rana is a Managing Director of Funds Talent, a Search and Selection Firm for the Funds Industry. Along with being a company director, she is a passionate people person, and an executive recruiter for the funds and asset management industry.