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Adidas Canada President Succession Plan featuring Alim Dhanji and Michael Rossi

Alim Dhanji and Michael Rossi

Alim Dhanji and Michael Rossi

27 minutes

May 26, 2024

Adidas Canada President Succession Plan featuring Alim Dhanji and Michael Rossi
Interview Highlights

According to the Harvard Business Review, efficient succession planning could elevate company valuations and investor returns by 20 to 25%.

Today, we have the pleasure of hearing from Aleem and Michael, who will share their experiences in navigating successful transitions and succession planning at Adidas. In 2021, Aleem Danji smoothly succeeded Michael Rossi as President of Adidas Canada.

Let's hear their insights on transition and succession planning.


Planning and Strategic Considerations


Michael Rossi’s Thoughts

Michael, who had been with Adidas for 15 years and served as President of Adidas Canada for five years, felt it was time to move on and seek new opportunities. "It felt like a good time to reflect and think of other opportunities," he explains. As the company was wrapping up a five-year strategic plan, it seemed like the perfect moment to introduce new leadership.


Alim Dhanji's Perspective

Alim, who took over from Michael, emphasized the importance of leadership capabilities, engagement, culture, and technical competencies. "Regardless of the role, there are key qualities around leadership, engagement, and culture that are essential," Alim notes. Transitioning during the pandemic, with disrupted supply chains and social justice movements, required doubling down on empathy, relationship-building, and vulnerability.


Navigating Unexpected Challenges

Transparency and Co-Governance

Michael highlights the importance of transparency during the transition. "We were really transparent about what was going on," he says. This included clear communication about the timing, Michael's next steps, and the co-governance period in where both leaders were involved. This approach helped maintain stability and clarity for the team.


Virtual Transition Difficulties

Alim faced the challenge of leading and connecting with the team virtually. "Doing that virtually was difficult," he admits. However, their low-ego approach and mutual support made the process smoother. "Both of us came to this transition with low ego," Alim adds, which fostered a supportive environment.


Gaining Trust and Building Relationships


Listening Sessions

To build trust, Alim conducted extensive listening sessions. "I had to overcompensate by scheduling a lot of listening sessions," he shares. This approach allowed him to understand the team’s needs and concerns, which was crucial in a virtual environment.


Quick Wins

Alim also focused on achieving quick wins to build confidence and trust. "Every little quick win that you can get for individuals helps build more trust and confidence," he explains. These small victories demonstrated his commitment and capability to lead effectively.


The Role of Organizational Culture


Servant Leadership

Alim and Michael both emphasized the importance of servant leadership. "It was important for me to be a servant leader and understand where the team needed to go," Alim states. This approach, coupled with their consistent values of people-first and transparency, helped maintain a positive organizational culture.


Consistent Values

Michael points out that their consistent values played a significant role in the smooth transition. "The hallmarks throughout were always genuine care for our people and transparency," he says. These principles ensured that the team felt respected and informed throughout the process.


Lessons for Other Organizations


Time and Communication

One key lesson from their experience is the importance of allowing sufficient time for transition. "Making time for a graceful and well-thought-out transition process is critical," Michael advises. Additionally, clear and open communication helps employees understand and adapt to the change.


Risk Assessment and Alignment

Alim suggests that future leaders should start with a risk assessment and align on key principles. "Understanding the risk assessment allows you to create principles on how to align," he explains. This approach ensures that both leaders are coordinated and can support each other and the team effectively.



Alim Dhanji and Michael Rossi’s leadership transition at Adidas Canada showcases the importance of strategic planning, transparency, and servant leadership. By prioritizing people, maintaining consistent values, and allowing time for adjustment, organizations can navigate leadership changes successfully, even in challenging times.

Official Transcript

Improved succession planning could potentially boost annual gains in the large cap US equity market by a full percentage point, adding to the projected four to 5% increase estimated by Wall Street. This enhancement would translate to company valuations and investor returns being 20 to 25%. Higher, according to Harvard Business Review.

Today, we're in for a treat, as we have both Aleem and Michael here to share their experiences navigating a successful transition and succession planning at Adidas in 2021, Aleem danji smoothly took over the reins from Michael Rossi as president of Adidas and Canada ensuring minimal disruption to the business while gaining widespread acceptance and support. Their journey highlights effective baton passing between outgoing and incoming leadership, maintaining momentum and ensuring a seamless handover of responsibilities. 

Alim and Michael, welcome to the show.


Michael Rossi: Thanks for having me.


Alim Dhanji: Pleasure to be here.

Michael, can you describe the initial steps and strategic considerations that were taken when planning your succession? 

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