Have no fear! Doc Savage is here!”Monk, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975)


Admit it. You missed Steve opening WWDC (Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference). You missed him walking out at the end of Phil Schiller’s keynote where Steve walks from behind the curtain and says , “One more thing!”



No Show – Despite all of the wild speculation, Steve Jobs didn’t show up at WWDC and according to his earlier statements plans to be back at 1 Infinity Circle late this month. Oh yes, the team put on a very good event focusing on business, not personalities.

There was no colored water to dazzle folks. No one sat down on the chair, whipped off the shoes and socks, held them in the air and said “today we’re unveiling iSox.” And five million people ran to the Apple store scooping up pairs at $50 per. There was no rush to roll-out matching laces, iSox cases, a dizzying array of toenail colors mixed.

My gawd you had to focus on the announcements rather than the man. Maybe – just maybe – the PC/CE/communications industry has passed thru another stage of growth, dare we say maturation?

The business world goes through phases and the technologies industry has gone from techie gee whiz stuff to fashion statements. The business and consumer industry today changes fast. It changes more frequently than skirt length.


Need for Speed – Through good times and bad the PC/CE/communications industry has kept its design/introduction engine running at full tilt. Today the industry moves faster than dress hem lengths.

In the ‘90s Jack Welch said the wind was at business’ back and he admits it was pretty easy to run GE. Jeff Immelt is having a tougher time.

Team Behind the Man

While Jobs aura overshadows the fact, he has built an executive team other firms want to use as a recruiting pool … ok so Palm did but they need every little edge they can get. What the industry needs is to dip into the talent pool to find some new crusaders, some new standard bearers.


Conquistadors – While the industry is still remarkably young and vital some of the champions are getting a little tired of constantly tilting at windmills. We either need a new breed of champions to emerge or a new battle plan…or both. Source — Picasso

Today’s standard bearers are well getting old!

Remember Bill Gates? Hell bent for world domination. Things got out of hand and the OS razor became the all-in-one solution that included the OS, search engine, twenty tons of applications. When the fun was gone Bill gracefully bowed out and started doing world good with his billions. His grizzly bear salesman replacement’s track record? Wait for the book to be written.

Early Champions

Then you’ve got Scott McNealy’s rallying cry that Sun Microsystems would challenge, defeat and return the power of the computer to the people. Oracle’s Ellison is collecting the pieces into his horde.

Craig Barrett and Andy Grove had a fantastic run-up with Intel. They kept pushing Moore’s law, they were paranoid about survival, they orchestrated the firm’s entrance into mobile and wireless computing. Otellini guides the organization like a practiced, practical operations manager.

Intel’s perpetual nemesis AMD had a fantastic run – up and down – with the silver fox, Jerry Sanders, leading the pack. Hector Ruiz tried but another Jerry he was not. Dirk Meyer didn’t even try to follow in Sanders footsteps and just might have the company moving in the right operational direction.

The walk-about legends – Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard – passed the buck to the board of directors which after a series of missteps seems to have found the operations guy they need to keep the huge tech/fashion engine running. Mark Hurd appears to have all of the cats moving in the same direction…finally.

There are still a few industry “legends” at the helm like Michael Dell and Larry Ellison but they’re a little preoccupied to lead the new fashion industry. Michael has issues. Loveable Larry causes issues.

Google is so busy gathering information about everyone who accesses the iNet they don’t qualify. Twitter, FaceBook attract mobs with their free stuff but you probably can’t name their champions.

So back to Jobs. Maybe the showman is thinking about a new phase in his life. He may have watched Woz dance and figured he might be missing things. The team is in place. He’s got a boatload of money (big chunks of Apple and Disney). He might even decide he wants to do some world good like Bill with his $5 billion +/- net worth. That’s his decision to make because if the board blew him out the Kool-Aid drinkers would storm 1 Infinity Circle and … let’s just say it wouldn’t be pretty.

Different Times

Even with the tough times we’ve had the CEO turnover has been only been modest (increasing to 14.4%).


Orderly Transitions – While globally the CEO turnover has increased slightly over the past year most of it has taken place because it was part of the long-term business plan or the firm was acquired. Most of the dismissals took place in the financial and “old established” industries. Source – Booz & Co

Maybe that’s why the list above has largely been operations folks. They’re focusing on fashion items (clouds, Wiis, netbookish notebooks, smartphone books) that clean up the back office mess and attract/keep customers.


Short-Term Focus – Rather than boldly attacking new markets, new market areas; executives for the coming year are concentrating on winning over new customers for existing products and in retaining customers. Source – Heidrick & Struggles

Today has a different look/feel than the ‘90s. It’s different from the Web bubble. It’s true that the bosses don’t have a lot of time to prove themselves. They don’t have a lot of time to prove their street cred. That’s too bad because what companies really need is a CEO with the right DNA mixture of Jobs and Herb Kelleher.

Herb who? Kelleher.

The Marlboro smoking, Wild Turkey drinking, big airline/government fighting, people focused lawyer (yeah we know hard to believe a lawyer could be so human!). The irreverent SOB founded Southwest Airlines.

He built the “gotta fail” Texas commuter airline into what is arguably one of the most successful and most profitable firms in the industry. Long time employees say there’s still a little bit of Herb on every flight. He never had an HR (human resources) department. He had a people department.

He worked and partied with everyone in the organization equally. His philosophy was that no matter what his/her job was, every member of the team was a leader and responsible for people service and customer service.

LUV All Around

Caring about people internally paid off for Kellener because the SWA people LUVed what they did and their boss…and it showed. They all had a goal, a common rallying cry. Geez what a killer CEO would be bringing together the on-stage Steve with Herb’s people talents (Steve doesn’t have a huge reputation of being a party-down people reputation ya know!).

That’s what today’s PC/CE/communications fashion companies need. Imagine the sway that CEO would have over the marketplace, over the industry. Maybe the days of the wunderkin CEOs for the industry has past. Maybe it’s just time for guys/gals who know how to make things happen.



Young Idealists – It may be difficult to believe but Steve (left) and Bill did sit down and discuss the industry, trends and changes on many occasions. True they probably saw the marketplace from dramatically different perspectives and had their own “best ideas” of how to make the changes and win the market. But that’s what competition is all about. Source — Fortune


There’s still time for real people who can lead and inspire organizations to do more and be more than they should be. We wanna see that dude or dudette stand before the team with jaw jutting and say…

“Before we go… let us remember our code. Let us strive every moment of our lives to make ourselves better and better to the best of our abilities so that all may profit by it. Let us think of the right and lend our assistance to all who may need it, with no regard for anything but justice. Let us take what comes with a smile, without loss of courage. Let us be considerate of our country, our fellow citizens, and our associates in everything we say and do. Let us do right to all – and wrong no man.”

They’d go out make insanely great products, rush out and convince everyone to buy them, turn the economy around in a heartbeat and the PC/CE/communications industry would show the placeholder bosses who really runs the world economy.

Awesome man…Awesome!

One Response to Our Next Great Tech CEO: Hero or Cheerleader?

  1. kingthorin
    Jun 24, 2009

    “Save the cheerleader, save the world.”

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