Leo Apotheker, co-CEO SAP

On the one hand, Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Apotheker is just one more of the 40% of new leaders that fail in their first 18 months.  On the other hand, we rarely get as clear a view of why someone failed as we do in this case.  Board chair Ray Lane explained in a September 22, 2011 press conference call that Apotheker:

 – failed to deliver/execute

 – failed to form a strong team

 – failed to communicate well

In Lanes' words:

Failed to deliver

You don't deliver a quarter, you don't deliver another quarter…Then you have to make the tough call of, how long do you go along with that? Do you help? Do you surround? Or do you replace?

(Apotheker lacked the) ability to get down deep into the businesses and understand the dynamics that were going on the businesses, and that could land us on a quarter ahead of expectations.

Failed to form a strong team

This is a company that requires an executive team to be on the same page. I would spend time here or at board meetings or whatever the occasion was and we didn't see an executive team working on the same page or working together.

Failed to communicate well

I think we struggled in the August 18 announcement (about buying Autonomy, spinning off the PC unit and discontinuing the TouchPad), and when we communicated to our constituents, customers, press, investors, with clear, concise communications.

Prescription for success

In our work with senior executives and in our book, The New Leader's 100-Day Action Plan, we suggest new leaders must do three things to succeed:

  1. Get a head start
  2. Manage the message
  3. Build the team

I suggest, that if Apotheker had gotten a head start before he started and then treated every day thereafter like it was the first 100 days of the rest of his career, he would have had a far greater chance of delivering.

Had Apotheker paid more attention to his message and communication points to all stakeholders, he could have avoided some of his communication snafus.

Had Apotheker paid more attention to building his team, the team would have performed better.

It's too late for Apotheker, but not too late for you.  Read and heed.

Image by mkrigsman via Flickr

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