How Should Microsoft Proceed After Ballmer’s Departure

MicrosoftIn late August, Microsoft’s chief executive officer, Steve Ballmer declared his intention to retire in the near future. Last Thursday, Ballmer made his final appearance in front of the company as CEO. We asked our Zintro experts what might have played a role in Ballmer’s decision and what strategy his successor should follow after his departure.

As management consultant, John Nelson points out, most companies go through several eras as they transform and adapt to changes in their environment. “If an organization is at one of these transition points, the readiness of the leader to go another round is key, which is a 3-5 year commitment. Microsoft may be at such a turning point and requiring a leader to commit and drive the next evolution of Microsoft. Not a likely situation with Ballmer, but a leader’s competency and confidence may be a factor in deciding when to retire, making room for a new fresh approach and innovative leadership,” notes Nelson. “It is not uncommon for someone who has left a very strong legacy and who has accumulated a lot of wealth, to feel satisfied with their legacy and looking for a deeper purpose to fill, a legacy on civilization and humanity.” Nelson also believes that it is very crucial to find a strong successor to lead Microsoft, whom Gates and the Board really trust, before leaving the company. “I’d trust that Ballmer, Gates and the Board are confident in the market’s reaction to the future leadership of the company before deciding to retire early. My view is that Ballmer is ready for a new stage in life, he has much to be proud of and he had much more to offer the world outside of Microsoft. Many times a new leader wants to enter the role and make a quick mark. Take advantage of a solid on-boarding, spend time learning everything you can from Ballmer, Gates, key Board members and other key executives,” he explains. “Get personal with the marketplace, your consumers, your partners, create your view of the market and the product and service value proposition that you can win with in the future. When out of the first 90 days engaging these stakeholders, outwardly honor the work of your predessesors, you’ll earn great respect and when your agenda is ready, people are more likely to sign up with you more quickly.” Moreover, from Nelson’s point of view, the new executive will have a few challenges, therefore he should invest in his leaders, gain trust as well as collaborate, communicate and empower, which are all important for their future leadership. “To lead authentically, you need to also lead with your own style, find your own leadership voice, be genuine and transparent. It takes a lot of energy, focus and resilience to lead a transformation, being true to yourself and your style will fuel you, trying to be what you think others want you to be will drain you,” adds Nelson. “Ballmer has left his mark after following in the footsteps of Gates. This leader has a great opportunity to do the same, do it wisely and in his own unique way!”

According to Geary W. Sikich, an expert in risk and crisis management, the pressure caused by the lack of performance in Microsoft’s latest technology attempts could have led to Ballmer decision to retire early. “I think that a new CEO may have to consider a break-up of Microsoft into separate business entities along the lines of business. This actually might lead to a strategy for the future and get the company back on performance levels not seen since the late 90’s,” notes Sikich. “It would be interesting to ‘War Game’ the future with senior management there.”

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