There are certain qualities that a leader of a company can bring to the table. Leadership and decision making are often (but not always) crucial. Understanding of a product and the market they’re in is essential. And then there’s headlines…
When Léo Apotheker was asked by HP to step down today to make room for Whitman as President and CEO, few outside of the tech industry could recognize (or pronounce) his name, let alone his face. He didn’t create buzz. He wasn’t in the headlines.
Meg Whitman has been and will be. At the end of the day, that’s one of the most important aspects of leading a large company. Figures like Steve Job, Bill Gates, and Larry Page know how to make headlines. Léo Apotheker did not.
It doesn’t necessarily take being a good speaker, though that helps. Mark Zuckerberg is a perfect example of someone who is definitely not a good speaker but who can make headlines (some of which weren’t completely negative). We know what to expect from Zuckerberg. Nobody knew what to expect from Léo Apotheker.
Meg Whitman will change this at the top. Apotheker put together some poor strategies, but most of them were strong and the 320,000 HP employees worldwide will continue down the path he created. Where Whitman fits in is as an aggressive and charismatic leader. It will help to bring back some swagger that has fallen in recent quarters based upon poor performance.
As we initially predicted, this has been planned before the rumors started rolling out earlier in the week.
They held a webcast today. There was one underlying theme repeated 3 times by Whitman: “HP matters.” Whether or not that’s true now isn’t as important as whether or not they’ll be able to make it happen in the coming months. As a company, they really don’t have the luxury of years. They are an infrastructure nightmare with so many moving parts that failure on a macro-level could tank the company quickly if they aren’t able to deliver on the promise of “mattering.”
Whitman said, “I am honored and excited to lead HP. I believe HP matters – it matters to Silicon Valley, California, the country and the world.”
The questions from shareholders were rough. They were hammered for a lack of confidence in the board from investors – easily understandable after switching CEOs again in less than a year. Ray Lane, non-executive Chairman (and soon-to-be-Executive Chairman) handled most of the questions, pointing out that they have added and replaced many board member with 8 new faces on the board in less than a year.
When asked about the process of looking at Apotheker’s performance over the last 11 months, Lane held back no punches in describing their perspective. “Do you help? Do you surround? Do you replace?”
Clearly, they replaced.
Meg Whitman’s appointment as CEO of Hewlett-Packard is a sign that they want to be part of the conversation. They want to be in the news. They want to make the news.
Will they? Will she?