Sheryl Sandberg Should Succeed Microsoft's Ballmer

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by Jon Friedman
August 29, 2013 3:04 PM
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Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg should succeed Steve Ballmer, who announced that he plans to retire.

Shareholders won't weep at the departure of Ballmer. The company, which exploded in the 1990s under the visionary Bill Gates, failed to continue the momentum under Ballmer. 

Yes, Ballmer continued to post profits at Microsoft very handsomely during his time (even if he failed to make headway on innovation and changes in the ways people use technology). His supporters will credit him for accomplishing these developments after succeeding Bill Gates, one of the most celebrated innovators in American history. 

Perhaps I'm merely speaking for the universe of cranky Microsoft shareholders over the past several years. We see how well people did in the 1990s and we grumble: Where is my yacht?

Microsoft seemed tired, bereft of deep ambition and unsure of what kind of strategy it needed to implement under Ballmer.

Sandberg, who turned 44 years old yesterday, has the skill set that is required: She understands social media. She is a natural leader, as her best-selling book "Lean In" showed. She has the respect of the technology community and can bring the best of Facebook and Google, her previous employer. 

It wouldn't be too tough for her to wow Wall Street. By promising a new discipline and direction, the new Microsoft CEO would make the Street very optimistic. 

Microsoft needs a new face, a new image, a new mission. The long-suffering shareholders demand it. (Full confession: I have been one of those long-suffering stockholders, since 1999). We have waited (Im)patiently for a new gameplan to restore Microsoft to its past glory.

What does a CEO really do, anyway? He or she can't fix the office plumbing or walk around and inspire every employee to achieve greatness? Much of a CEO's performance is judged by the company's stock price. Impressing investors is a skill in itself. But there is more to it than that.

There is also a vague but powerful impression that the new CEO is in command, that things have changed at a seemingly moribund company, and that a new spirit is spreading through the ranks. In short, the ultimate CEO's skill centers on leadership.

Sandberg is a leader. Give her a chance.



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