SNS: Ten Things CEOs Should Know

SNS: Ten Things CEOs Should Know


Volume 14, Issue 15
Week of April 11, 2011

In This Issue

Feature: Ten Things Ceos Should Know

Quotes of The Week


  • China’s New Cyber Targets: Your Protectors
  • Connectomics: Deciphering the Brain’s Neural Structure, At Last


Takeout Window

  • The Beauty of Connectomics: Mapping Brain Connections


Ten Things CEOs Should Know

CEOs get the weight of the whole company on their shoulders. Although everyone speaks of team effort, it is the CEO’s face that is the company’s face, and, more important, it is the CEO’s brain that leads company strategy.

For this, they are paid way too much, in many cases reminding global citizens of Roman-era excess, and religious cults of the End of Days. Given these enormous rewards, it is surprising that, while these CEOs are usually first-rate at their jobs (and sometimes stunningly so), the majority are, in my opinion, just “OK,” going on “good.”

It is not at all unusual to see these leaders making mistakes. Often these are so large, and so avoidable, that it gives pause: how did that happen?

Why did Cisco’s John Chambers think a telecoms equipment company should get into cute pink consumer video cameras?

Why did Apple’s Steve Jobs think he could beat IBM in the early corporate and enterprise PC markets?

Why did Microsoft’s Bill Gates think he was bigger than the United States Justice Department?

Why did Carly Fiorina think engineering-driven Hewlett-Packard was all about her personal public-relations effort?

Why did Ray Noorda and Scott McNealy start running Novell and Sun Microsystems as though their primary destiny was defending against Microsoft?

Why did Intel’s Paul Otellini think marketing hype was more important than flagship chip speed?

Why did Steve Ballmer think Microsoft should be in the consumer market?

Why did Jeff Immelt just give China the blueprints to GE’s famed jet engines?

And why did IBM’s Sam Palmisano do the same with the company’s most advanced chip fabrication secrets?

“Hubris” is usually the answer – that, or a lack of good advisors. Sometimes there’s a technical issue, like chip heating; and sometimes there are national (or shareholder) pressures. In any case, it is obvious that CEOs, while perhaps dropping a ball here or there, need to avoid making Serious Major Screwups (SMS’s) that could devastate the company, destroy their legacy, and end in disaster.

For these reasons, I thought it might be helpful in this issue to provide 10 basic recommendations to CEOs that might help them get from the golf course to the boardroom without being hit by pies, eggs, shareholder suits, or Stories Continued on Page 10.

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