Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

Gutsy Corporate Leaders: Best and Worst of 2011!


2011 proved to be a very challenging business year, but, as with most years, there were some great examples of gutsy leadership and some of the reverse. We saw one company reach $400/share, battling Exxon Mobil at the most valuable company in market value, up from near bankruptcy at $3/share in 1997. Another reached a low of $17/share, falling from $300/share just ten years ago. Clearly great results require courageous leadership. Here are my picks for the best and worst of 2011.

THE BEST

Sam Palmisano – CEO of IBM: This guy took the job from the highly successful Lou Gerstner who created a huge services business for Big Blue, and courageously took the company one step further, constantly picking up software/analytics companies in recent years. By the end of 2011, IBM stock was at $185/share, up from $75 when he became CEO in 2002. Amazingly, almost 25% of IBM revenue is now software/analytics. For the record, roughly 60% is in services and about 15% is hardware. Sam Palmisano has done an amazing job, when most thought he would suffer in comparison to Gerstner. Congratulations to Sam as he now moves into retirement.

Stephen Elop – CEO of Nokia: He joined the company on Fall of 2010 and in 2011 he scrapped Nokia’s in-house, antique Symbian operating system and made a deal with Microsoft to use their new Windows Phone 7 operating system in the new Nokia smartphones to try to catch up with the big guys; Apple iPhone and the Android phones. It is certainly not clear whether this late-in–the–game move will work, but you have to give Elop credit for not wasting any time and making a very gutsy bet.

Steve Jobs – CEO of Apple: The iPod, then iTunes, then the iPhone, then the iPad were driven by the creative drive and courage of this most amazing person. In 2011 the stock reached $400/share, and Apple is in a dogfight with Exxon Mobil as the most valuable company; an incredible achievement versus the near bankruptcy days of 1997 when it was down to $3.

THE WORST

The Dual CEO’s of RIM: makers of the Blackberry: RIM has had a dreadful couple of years, with 2011 being an absolute nightmare. The stock price has fallen 78% this year and they just can’t seem to catch up in the smartphone race, even though they are the ones that owned the business just a few years ago. They still have a very valuable set of business customers, but they are now seeing serious defections.

The CEO of Sony: Yes, they had to deal with the factory closings due to the tsunami, but they made little progress on the product front. Sony is registering their usual huge loss on TV’s ($8 billion over the past 8 years). Also, PlayStation is still #3 behind Nintendo and Xbox, and Sony is a non-player in the exploding smartphone and tablet markets. They have been in a tailspin for several years now, dropping to $17/share versus the $300 level in 2000 when the Play Station was super hot. For 2011 they are on track to lose $3.1 billion.

The CEO of MF Global: His recent statement to a Congressional committee that “I simply do not know where the money ($1.2 billion) is” says it all!
We end the year realizing the huge contributions of Steve Jobs, saluting IBM for a great example of a very large company acting nimbly, and wishing Stephen Elop the best of luck.

We end the year realizing the huge contributions of Steve Jobs, saluting IBM for a great example of a very large company acting nimbly, and wishing Stephen Elop the best of luck.

So who would you select as your Best and/or Worst Corporate Leader of 2011 and why?

Let us know your thoughts.

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