Michael Maggiotto Jr
This is a hard one. Rarely are there true “equals” in a merger. But in your hypothetical, it boils down to the transaction thesis. Who is best equipped to bring the reason for the merger into fruition? What behavior traits are critical and who has the best combination/track record of exhibiting these behavior traits? Will the competencies for the position change for the merged entity as compared to the current competencies within the existing independent entities? If so, who has the stronger inventory of competencies? What about the soft skills required to shepherd the smooth transition during integration and inspire a shared vision of the future for the new merged entity?
These are critical starting points. Answer these questions and you will begin to see a clear singular leader.
What is really challenging is not so much the “merger of equals” but rather the merger of head-strong leaders. Who will look out for the overall merger success by backing down first? Who will allow a smooth transition as opposed to making it a fight, a power struggle? A power struggle at the top is the worst thing for a successful transaction. It poisons the minds and hearts of all below as employees begin to take sides in support of their “champion”. A decision should be made whether a merger under such circumstances between these businesses is even possible. It may be better to walk away from the deal.