Executive confidence is terrific; but overconfidence often accompanies lack of cooperation and unwillingness to admit failure, and it can wreak havoc in the ranks and become a fast-track to the exit ramp.
This week's executive shuffle at Apple Inc. is a case in point, but it's just one of many cases occurring worldwide in enterprises that lack the visibility of Apple.
To review, Apple's CEO Tim Cook cleaned house by replacing Apple's head of mobile software, Scott Forstall, with newly promoted execs Craig Federighi and Jony Ive. Cook also ousted the head of Apple's retail division, John Browett.
Insiders have reported that Forstall was a supremely competent executive, but he apparently had ambitions for the CEO post, based on his close relationship with the late Steve Jobs. He was feisty and uncooperative with other execs. Things came to a head when he refused to acknowledge problems with a couple of projects he directed, including iOS mapping and Siri.
Forstall isn't alone in his lack of humility -- or put another way, his refusal to admit mistakes and move on. The roster of big Internet firms is full of similar executives whose self-approval exceeds that of their CEOs and boards. Here's a sampling:
Reed Hastings. The CEO of Netflix believed so strongly that he was right to split Netflix's business in two last year that he nearly lost his company doing it. Cooler heads prevailed, and the crisis seems to have passed. For now.
Unlike the Apple shake-up, this seems to have come as a complete surprise to many. Sinofsky was regarded as a possible successor to Ballmer, and that may have been his downfall. It's hard to believe it has anything to do with Windows 8 - too early for that, surely.
Call them unrepentant and unwavering in their beliefs, but in a way, I equate their stubbornness with foolishness. What's the point of being right if the direction you're steering the firm is wrong.
Of the list, I find it most unfortunate for RIM. They had such huge potential to impact and perhaps even remake the mobile industry. Too bad they lost their vision somewhere along the way and have been mediocre at best. And like many people have said, their days are pretty much numbered.
Well, it's a hot market full of startups and young people and consumers. CEOs tend to be a bit brash as well; it goes with the territory, I think. A more staid market, such as IT storage, for example, is populated by another kind of exec.
Scott Forstall at Apple, who was in charge of the mobile division that produced the widely excoriated mapping function for iPhones, refused to sign the public apology
@Mary, I agree with you. This clearly shows the overconfidence and ego of Scott Forstall. If he was the incharge of the mobile division then he should have signed public apology. When things go smooth leaders take the credit and when things go awry such leaders refuse to take the owndership. I think Tim Cook has done the right thing by replacing Scott Forstall.
The roster of big Internet firms is full of similar executives whose self-approval exceeds that of their CEOs and boards.
@Mary, thanks for the post.Its surprising to know that most of the big Internet firms is full or such executives. I wonder why they behave like this ? Do they want to show that they are great leaders by taking risky decisions? Why don't they take both the CEO's and boards into confidence ?
Regarding overconfidence, Scott Forstall at Apple, who was in charge of the mobile division that produced the widely excoriated mapping function for iPhones, refused to sign the public apology Tim Cook produced a few weeks back to users. To me, that's overconfidence. He must have known he'd anger and alienate others in the C-suite.
Don't think there's anything new here, KMT568; it's not this market. Top execs are confident people; they have a lot of conviction about their own judgment. The story I read was that in Reed Hastings' case, he really got the idea to split the product/service at Netflix, ran with it, and refused to be talked off the ledge. When it failed, as everyone knew it would, he was forced to face facts.
But that kind of overconfidence has been part of executive behavior for generations, no? Don't forget Henry Ford, the Robber Barons, the execs who crashed this time of year in the 1920s. Nothing new here.
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