Despite the rantings and ravings of most of the blogosphere today, I personally think Meg Whitman may be an excellent choice as CEO of HP. Of course saying this makes it much easier for future criticism if she doesn't work out, and I in no way can say there's not a better choice out there, but all things considered, I think HP might have finally made a decision that could work.
If you read most of the commentaries being printed right now you will find that the primary stone-throwing at Whitman is based on (a) her run for governor and the subsequent issues this revealed concerning illegal immigrants and (b) her decision that led to a huge loss on the acquisition and sell of Skype. Both of these are serious and warrant consideration and criticism. But they are irrelevant to the matter at hand. HP has been without strong leadership for a long time. Their business strategy has been shaky for a long time and the effectiveness of the Board of Directors has been lacking. But at this moment they are where they are and they need some expertise to pull them out.
Wait…there's another criticism. Many of the tech blogs and writers are complaining that she lacks the "tech savviness" necessary to be CEO of HP. Really? I would argue that HP has plenty of tech savvy and the next level of leadership should provide that expertise. What they need from a CEO, and what Meg Whitman could provide, is the ability to set direction for a company that has lost its way.
With eBay, the problem wasn't that they had lost their purpose, it was that they didn't really have one. For all the criticism of some the final business decisions that were made, Whitman took the company from a handful of employees and a few million dollars in revenue, to a powerhouse with over 15,000 employees and eight billions dollars of revenue.
I would suggest that her focus on building community, her ability to establish a culture, and her constant approach on getting and responding to customer feedback are all hallmarks of her leadership that Aphoteker never mastered. Add to this her tendency for making decisions and taking action, and you have a potential leader that can do what neither Hurd nor Aphoteker were able to do.
The real issue when it comes to her history is whether or not she has lost the trust of the public, especially when she talked about being tough on immigration reform during her gubernatorial candidacy only to have questions revealed about her own staff. This is tough criticism and it may be fair criticism, but finding a "perfect" person is going to be impossible anyway. To expect that there are no dents in her armor is to be unrealistic about any CEO (or political candidate, or even your neighbor for that matter).
I think that all of the concerns being discussed in the media are legitimate and deserve to be heard, but in considering what is right for HP moving forward, it's important to look at the bigger picture. Meg Whitman has shown that she can take a company without a direction and provide the leadership necessary to dominate the marketplace. Let's hope she can do it again.
"Leadership consists of character and strategy. If you can't have both, opt for character." Norman Schwarzkopf
When we look at a potential manager who seems to understand the bigger picture, we often talk about their "strategic view." Most of us have discovered that the most strategic of managers, however, is not always the most effective of leaders.
While one could argue strategy as a necessary component of leadership and management, it is clearly not a sufficient component on its own. In fact, as a leader, you need to have a greater vision, but the implementation and understanding of the strategy could be in the skills of others who can make it happen. The key questions are"Strategy for what?" "Strategy based on what?" This is where the leader comes in. Character and vision are internal to the leader where strategy is external. Without a clear idea of where we're going, a strategy to get there makes no sense.