Kimberly-Clark has been around since 1872. It wasn't until Darwin Smith took over in 1971 as CEO, when the company could finally be labeled as great. He lead the company for over 20 years to take it from a floundering coated paper business to the direct rival that it is today of Procter and Gamble in the consumer paper products. This company has picked up right up where Darwin Smith left. He instilled the concepts and values of a great company and set up the company to succeed upon his departure.
It is hard to replace a leader like Darwin Smith, he exhibited all the qualities of a Level 5 leader. According to Good to Great to be a Level 5 leader they must have a mix of humility and will and have ambition not just for their own gain, but for the company (Collins, 2001). Another dimension of a Level 5 leader is setting up the next generation for success. One way he did this was by choosing the right successor. 10 out of the 11 good to great companies had CEO's who came from inside the company (Collins, 2001). Darwin Smith chose Wayne Sanders to succeed him because he exhibited the Level 5 qualities and he knew the company culture having worked there for four years. Wayne Sanders had large shoes to fill but he certainly did a great job of doing it. Under Sanders, Kimberly-Clark aggressively expanded their market share in Europe and Asia and continued to expand into emerging markets, this all lead to revenues more than doubling (Zellner, 2002). His focus on the company's success was unwavering during the eleven years he spent as CEO. Sanders always believed on looking to the future and he was quoted "The shortest horizon we plan for is a year... We won't make short-term, crazy moves, for pennies in a quarter." Sanders focus was clearly on the company at large ,not just pleasing the investors from quarter to quarter. Sanders retired in 2003 in what he called " a carefully planned transition". His replacement, Thomas Falk, had worked for the company for 19 years...
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