Kudos and Gaffes: Innovating Game Changer and a Leader Without a Team

Leadership Kudos this week go to Apple’s Steve Jobs for launching iCloud, yet another game changer from Apple. Look to Apple to enable you to store all your iTunes, books, movies, documents, on-line downloads and photos in one place as you move effortlessly from the iMac to iPad, iPod, and iPhone, which will make our mobile and stationery lives that much easier to navigate. Jobs’ latest breakthrough is a sharp rebuke to the security analysts and media pundits who were calling for Apple’s board to announce his successor when he began his latest medical leave earlier this year. Don’t count Jobs or Apple out quite yet.

Leadership Gaffes go this week to Newt Gingrich and his futile presidential campaign, as 16 of his top aides on campaign staff resign en masse. It’s hard to lead when you don’t have a team, and even harder to run for President from a cruise ship in the Greek Isles. Gingrich vows to forge on, but it’s time for him to return to writing and teaching. 

Leadership Book Suggestion: Flying Without A Net

My HBS colleague Tom DeLong has a brilliant new book that I strongly recommend to you: Flying Without A Net: Turn Fear of Change into Fuel for Success. Tom directly addresses the fears that we all have that hold us back & may even destroy us - and shows how to convert anxiety into success. He shows how to draw strength from vulnerability by being even more vulnerable to turn frea of change and failure into fuel for success. It's a great read.

Kudos and Gaffes: Teamwork is superior to individual

Leadership Kudos of the Week go to Lionel Messi and his teammates at Barcelona for demonstrating that teamwork is superior to individual, as they won the Champion’s Cup as the world’s top professional team with skillful passing, patience, and intensity. With Iniesta, Xavi, Messi, Villa, Pedro and so many brilliant players, Barca has become the best team of all time. Every aspiring soccer player should study the tapes of this game and then learn how to do it.

Leadership Gaffes of the Week go to John Edwards for allegedly using funds given to him to run for President to cover up his affair as his wife Elizabeth was dying with cancer. It doesn’t get any worse than this. What if we had elected this man President?

Grand Rapids Memories

Growing up in the awesome 1950s in my hometown of Grand Rapids, MI, living 2 blocks from Congressman Jerry Ford, remembering cold mornings delivering newspapers & how we loved Buddy Holly, Richie Valens & The Big Bopper. Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end...

This Week: Kudos to Novartis -- Gaffes by HP

Leadership Kudos of the Week go to Novartis Chair Daniel Vasella and CEO Joe Jimenez: Vasella for his courageous strategies of internal investment in research and diversification into generic drugs, vaccines, and eye care, and Jimenez for his skillful implementation of these challenging strategies. Vasella’s decision to invest heavily in new research headquarters in Boston has led to continuing flow of breakthrough drugs, including recent treatments for multiple sclerosis and gout. Instead of buying other pharma companies, he diversified into generic drugs (now second largest in world), vaccines (creator of H1N1 vaccine), and eye care with $52 billion bet on global leader Alcon. Jimenez is making all these moving parts grow in unison. The stock market, finally recognizing Novartis stands out from pharmaceutical industry’s problems, this week pushed NVS stock to all-time high of $63.35, making its $167 billion market capitalization second highest in industry behind J&J. Since the start of 2000, Novartis stock is up 71% compared to 59% for J&J, whereas Pfizer and Merck have declined 53% and 45%, respectively.

Leadership Gaffes of the Week go to Hewlett-Packard’s board of directors for losing sight of the HP Way – the culture created by founders David Packard and Bill Hewlett – and failing to develop leaders internally. Since 1999, the HP board has gone outside company management three consecutive times in choosing Carly Fiorina, Mark Hurd, and Leo Apotheker, all of whom have tried to put their own stamp on the culture while ignoring the culture that made HP so successful for forty years. Since taking the helm two months ago, Apotheker has replaced ten EVPs and SVPs and half the board with outsiders. Will HP ever recover its former greatness?

Why Ballmer Should Stay CEO at Microsoft

Today I was on CNBC’s Power Lunch,  responding to hedge fund analyst David Einhorn’s call for Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to resign. I strongly disagreed, as I believe Ballmer is making the right calls in expanding Microsoft is making the right moves to build new revenues through diversification. Witness X-Box, Skype, and important partnerships with Facebook and Nokia. Microsoft is experiencing a renewed surge of innovation, just what the company needs at this time in its history. Here’s the video of our discussion.

This Week's Kudos Go To Mulally and Gaffes to Strauss-Kahn

Leadership Kudos for the week go to Ford CEO Alan Mulally. Joining deeply-troubled Ford in 2006, Mulally has pulled off the greatest corporate transformation in recent decades -- and in the process restored faith in the American automobile industry and the U.S.'s ability to compete globally in heavy manufacturing. An exceptionally humble leader, Mulally's authentic, high-performance style has brought humanity and discipline back to Ford. The proof is in Ford's results: in the most recent quarter Ford sales were up 18 percent, profits up 22 percent, and its share of the U.S. market gained the #1 spot.


Leadership Gaffe for the week goes to IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, arrested for sexually assaulting a chamber maid in New York. A momentary lapse? Unlikely. Strauss-Kahn has a long history of extra-marital relations. The larger question is why he was trusted with such an important international post. Leaders need to set a higher standard, not seek the lowest common denominator. 

Leadership Kudos this Week Goes to His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Leadership Kudos for this week go to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his work in creating a more peaceful, compassionate world. He was in Minneapolis last weekend, where we are pleased to have the second largest Tibetan community outside India. Our family had the privilege of being with him at a series of events. He recently turned over the political leadership of the Tibetan people to a democratically-elected leader so he can concentrate his full energies on working toward peace and compassion. His messages focused on secular ethics, not Buddhism, to unite people around finding inner peace through mindfulness and compassion. He is, no doubt, one of the world's great spiritual leaders.

Ballmer Thinks Long-term with Skype Acquisition

I was on CNBC today with Yale’s Jeff Sonnenfeld commenting on Microsoft’s purchase of Skype. While the interviewers took a short-term view of stock price movements, Jeff and I believe it is an important deal for Microsoft, as Skype has myriad revenue-producing opportunities for growth in the video-conferencing. We use it all the time to stay in touch with our grandchildren in Munich and San Francisco – we’re one of 663 million users. But its potential on the business side is far greater as transmission quality improves and Skype can offer multi-point capability. The latter will be critical for the expansion of small, personal groups, which we call True North Groups (the title of my new book, to be released on September 1, 2011) which want to operate remotely.

Steve Ballmer is doing just the right thing here. I hope this will be the first of many smaller ventures Microsoft acquires. They came close with Facebook three years – for $15 billion – and should pursue “the next great thing(s)” coming in the tech space. Most people don’t recognize that Microsoft has grown from $28 billion when Ballmer took over to $62 billion in 2010, in large part due to internally-created businesses in servers, X-Box and Bing that now account for 40% of its revenues. With $36 billion in cash, Microsoft has plenty of capacity to make a lot of bets on future growth engines. Even if some don’t make it – which they won’t – they may hit on the next Facebook, Google or YouTube.

This Week's Leadership Kudos - and Gaffes

Leadership Kudos go to Pres Obama for the daring raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. This was courage at its finest, as the President waited patiently for just the right time, gathering a great deal of intelligence information in advance, and electing to keep the raid secret from the Pakistani ISI and military. Then he took the riskier option of sending in the Navy Seals instead of drones.
This event has temporarily reunited the nation and silenced Obama critics who say he is risk-averse and indecision. He followed the news with great communication of what happened. Now he should seize the opportunity to reunite the nation around rebuilding America's position in the world through investing in the economy through the private sector.



Leadership Gaffe belongs to CUNY trustee Jeff Wiesenfeld, who rallied CUNY trustees to block Tony Kushner's honorary degree because Kushner, who is Jewish, was critical of Israel. Kushner's "Angels in America" was a breakthrough play about AIDS in America; he just opened "IHO," his latest play, which was created at Minnesota's Guthrie Theater, to rave reviews.

Since the news broke, not one NYC institution or person has supported that decision. Meanwhile, five other CUNY honorary degree recipients have told the university that they want to return their degrees, in solidarity with Kushner. Wisely, the CUNY trustees decided to rescind their decision. They appear to have convinced Kushner to accept the honorary degree after all. For his inappropriate attack on the nation's leading playwright, Wiesenfeld should resign.