Dalio and his team were confident the financial crisis was on its way and planned accordingly. Bridgewater, then, performed relatively well when it did hit, and this brought an influx of attention and new clients. In 2010, Bridgewater had its best year ever.
During this period, Dalio decided he needed to build a succession plan, and was ready to have it last anywhere from a couple years to a decade. He stepped back as CEO in 2011, splitting office leadership between David McCormick and Greg Jensen. In his book, Dalio wrote that he considers Jensen family, and so when it turned out that Jensen was unable to balance both of his roles as co-CEO and co-CIO (a problem Dalio had run into himself in 2008), Dalio considered the ensuing shakeup in 2016 to be his biggest regret at Bridgewater.
He had appointed another CEO, Jon Rubinstein, in 2016, but the role lasted only 10 months. After a year back in the CEO seat, Dalio finally felt he got the succession plan right in 2017 and stepped back.
In the podcast interview, Dalio said the experience taught him several lessons.
“One can say, I think this is going to happen but I shouldn’t bet on it, because if you haven’t done something three times before successfully, don’t assume you know how to do it,” he said.
He sought advice from the management expert Jim Collins and learned that he not only needed a governance board for this transition, but that a leader’s perspective and talents are not suddenly transferable to a role they have never had.
“I learned how people see things differently,” Dalio said. “I learned not to assume that somebody can do something until they’re doing it already.”