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7 habits of highly effective tech company CEOs

Rob Enderle | April 8, 2013
There's no CEO 101 course that outlines the best way to run a tech company. But the legacies of Jobs, Watson, Gerstner and Gates--combined with the current work of Whitman and Rometty--offer seven lessons for the corporate leaders of tomorrow.

Mark Hurd, in contrast, was a tactical thinker. Financial analysts loved this, but HP fired Hurd because actions such as eliminating most of the R&D department showed he wasn't thinking about the firm's future. As a result, HP after Hurd is in the midst of a tough turnaround. It's easy to focus on quarterly returns and keep the financial analysts happy, but that can lead to decisions that damage a firm's long-term viability. HP has been the poster child for this.

6. Take Care of Your Employees

The huge disparity between CEOs and the rank and file can tempt them to treat employees as if they are unimportant. Over the years, the teachings of human resources visionaries such as Abraham Maslow and Frederick Hertzberg have largely been forgotten.

Many companies spiral through layoff after layoff until there's really nothing left. Sun Microsystems was the "perfect" example of this; here was a company that seemed to completely lose its way and lose the support and loyalty of its employees in the process.

Meg Whitman's HP, in contrast, employs one of the most capable and strategic HR directors in the market. Tracey Keogh, HP's executive vice president of HR, is almost legendary in her unique, strategic efforts to return HP to a company that effectively cares for, mentors and develops its employees, optimizing that asset and recreating a more powerful "HP way." CEOs too often focus on their compensation, expensive cars and houses and unique benefits, forgetting that, without their employees, they can't succeed.

7. Above All, Never Forget You're the Face of the Company

The last key skill for any CEO is realizing that she's the face of the company. The self-promotion that helped get her the job is obsolete once she gets it. Her success switches is no longer directly tied to what she does; it's tied to the accomplishments of the executives and employees who report to her. IBM's Ginni Rometty, one of the few CEOs who was formally trained for the job and predecessor Sam Palmisano stand out as experts in this final skill.

A lot of CEOs don't make the switch from superstar to diplomat, from personal cheerleader to company avatar. Those who do typically master most of the six rules highlighted above. Not only are they more successful, they tend to enjoy the job more. Those who don't end up paranoid and help create a work environment filled with paranoia, where everyone's a rival out to get your job and willing to do almost anything to get it. That's why I believe strongly in CEO 101.

Next time you invest in, buy from or work for a company, consider these rules and see if they apply positively to the person running the firm. If they don't, it may be wiser to short the company, work for someone else and avoid buying from it, as it's likely you'll regret taking the alternative paths.


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