The board at

General Motors

recently made a strategic decision to oust CEO and longtime insider Fritz Henderson and temporarily replace him with Chairman Ed Whitacre. The search for a permanent replacement begins.

Corporate boards came under fire for rubber-stamping starstruck CEOs during the financial crisis instead of acting as guardians of shareholders' interests.

In many cases board sheepishness resulted from CEOs handpicking directors. But litigation and common sense have finally awoken some corporate boards, and they're back on the beat, doing what they're supposed to be doing.

Several months ago, we discussed the complex choice between bringing in an outsider to serve as a new CEO vs. installing an insider. Both have their pluses and minuses, and it appears the GM board tipped the scale in favor of the benefits of an outsider.

Henderson served GM since 1984. With such extensive experience comes knowledge, deeply held relationships and pedigree. But in a struggling business it also raises the question of whether or not this person was part of the problem, or one who could provide a solution. After giving him a little rope to run with, the board decided he was part of the problem and would take too long to find the solution.

An outsider comes in with a clean sheet of paper and no ties to the failures or problems of the past. They often come from successful tours as heavies at other companies and have full heads of steam to make changes. Without long-established ties to the business, it's easier for them to make tough personnel decisions. But for all of these pluses, there are also minuses.

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They need to review and understand the lessons learned that drove the company to the point that it needed their new leadership. They need to be careful not to decimate the ranks or they will risk impacting morale and causing people to shut down. Finally, if they are from outside the company, they may lack the industry knowledge to effectively lead their team.

In my opinion, this last issue is a huge misconception.

A good leader has the ability to enter any organization, review the lessons learned, develop a strategic objective, identify the required resources, create a team focused on execution and get the job done. The product or industry doesn't matter.

Ford

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stunned the auto industry in 2006 when it hired Alan Mulally away from

Boeing

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, but he's done a good job of righting that ship.

A good leader says three words: "I got it." And he or she means it. If the leader is from outside the industry the leader works tirelessly to get up to speed on that industry. He or she identifies individuals who are centers of gravity in the organization and quickly determines who's on board and who's not.

The succession saga at

Bank of America

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continues to drag on. It's surprising to me that the departure of Ken Lewis was a surprise to the bank's board. I was surprised he hadn't left sooner. Boards need to do a better job at succession planning so the decision to promote an insider or tap an outsider is discussed before it's needed.

Firing line: Creating a vision, aligning an organization, and holding people accountable is the same in the front office as it is on the front lines.

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At the time of publication, Buckley did not own any of the stocks mentioned. Matthew "Whiz" Buckley is the chief strategy officer of

Options University

, a provider of options education for options traders of all levels. He is also the managing partner of

Check6 LLC

, a business-consulting firm specializing in leadership development, risk management and strategic planning for Fortune 500 companies and related organizations. Buckley flew the F-18 Hornet for the U.S. Navy. He's a graduate of TOPGUN, has close to 400 carrier landings and flew 44 combat sorties over Iraq. After leaving active duty, he worked as managing director of strategy at a Wall Street firm and CEO of a financial media company. He is an internationally recognized speaker and combined his experiences in the military and corporate America in his book "From Sea Level to C Level." Matthew "Whiz" Buckley is the chief strategy officer of

Options University

, a provider of options education for options traders of all levels. He is also the managing partner of

Check6 LLC

, a business-consulting firm specializing in leadership development, risk management and strategic planning for Fortune 500 companies and related organizations. Buckley flew the F-18 Hornet for the U.S. Navy. He's a graduate of TOPGUN, has close to 400 carrier landings and flew 44 combat sorties over Iraq. After leaving active duty, he worked as managing director of strategy at a Wall Street firm and CEO of a financial media company. He is an internationally recognized speaker and combined his experiences in the military and corporate America in his book "From Sea Level to C Level."