News flowed in last week about three CEOs and three companies they head. So it gave me an idea of writing a sort of roundup of news about these high-profile CEOs and how their leadership is going to shape or has shaped the future of their companies. One of them, whom I have always admired, has continued to make bold moves and disrupt the way of doing business; the other resigned, and has prompted his fans to remember their admiration for his work and his leadership; while the third one, just one year into his stint as CEO, has raised speculation that he may be bringing on a disaster upon an already ailing company. I don’t think you’ll have trouble knowing who’s who.
Taking on the Goliath
Let’s start with Jeff Bezos. At a recent Venturebeat conference, Bezos almost confirmed that Amazon will soon start selling tablets to compete with IPads. An ambition of gigantic proportions, considering Jobs’ IPad was the highest selling tablet in last quarter with over 25 million IPads sold so far. But Bezos has a knack for taking on things slowly but surely. There is a definite roadmap for all his strategies. According to a strategist at Forrester, Amazon might initially have to leverage its inventory of software and sell its tablets at a lower price. The trick maybe not trying to cram the gadget with more features. It just needs to be an intuitive, easy to use and beautifully designed device that gets rid of clumsiness altogether. In the overheated tablet market, it is not easy to differentiate for success. As a cautionary tale, Mr. Bezos, you may refer to the story about the demise of HP’s TouchPad.
HP getting out of PC business
This brings me to HP CEO Leo Apotheker who replaced John Hurd. Apotheker has been making one baffling move after the other. First, the launch of the TouchPad only for it to be killed after 18 weeks of its launch and in recent news, an announcement to “spin off” its PC unit. When the world leader in PC sales announces it is getting out of that business, it prompts remarks like “It is like MacDonald’s getting out of the hamburger business” or “Boeing getting out of the plane business”. Sure, the margins in the consumer business sales are not much and HP would rather focus on high margin businesses like software, but there doesn’t seem to be any clarity in this plan. It is not clear if they will get out of this business entirely and no explanation on its plans to buy Autonomy. One thing the market hates when it comes to business is uncertainty, and Mr. Apotheker, you are not, well, minimizing uncertainty to put it mildly.
Steve Jobs resigns
And then, you may have heard that Steve Jobs is no longer the CEO of Apple. He is going at a time when Apple reigns the Smartphone and the tablet market. In graduate school, we often studied Apple and concluded that this was a company that rarely botched any product launch, rarely messed up on any communication piece to the media and had a way of doing things that literally tugged at the heartstrings of its consumers. Everything that our textbooks said you should do if you want to be an undisputed leader in the market, Apple did. And it was no doubt the visionary leadership of Steve Jobs that made Apple what it is today. On that note, thank you Mr. Jobs for valuable leadership lessons and for our IPhones and IPads. We love them like babies. If it wasn’t for your genius, they wouldn’t be what they are to us.