I’ve devoted much of my adult life studying (and sometimes practicing) leadership. I have a library of over 20 books in my office right now that I’ve read. So, the unfolding drama at HP has captured a bit of my attention. Mark Hurd, former CEO who was at NCR in Dayton before that gig, was forced out by the board last week. Ostensibly the reason was first the result of a sexual harrassment accusation by a contract “marketing” (more like hostess or “booth babe”) person. When they could find no evidence of that, the board fell back on alleged discrepancies on his expense reports–seemingly pretty minor.
Much has been written. Henry Blodget writing at Silicon Valley Insider Business Insider points to Hurd’s poor marks from employees as a leader. I’ve read an essay written by a woman who takes sides with the movie actress/marketing rep just based on gender politics as best I can figure out. And one that argues that the board’s PR consultant warned them that even if there were no wrongdoing, the bad publicity that could not be countered would be a big problem. Whereupon Oracle CEO Larry Ellison came to Hurd’s defense.
Wouldn’t surprise me if the board wimped out over the publicity angle. I doubt that they dumped him because a lot of employees thought he was bad. After all, he was a cost-cutter. Cost-cutting managers are not going to be liked. What surprised me is that cost-cutters aren’t usually big thinkers and actors. Buying Palm and redirecting product development toward WebOS and away from Windows Mobile 7 was a major move.
In the end, I doubt that it was Hurd’s leadership as much as the HP Board’s lack of (something). They brought in superstar Carly Fiorina (it’s all about me, whereupon she is now in politics where it is “all about me”) then let her swing in the wind for a long time before jettisoning her. Then they brough in an uber manager, whom they subsequently trash. With that board, I pity the next victim, er, CEO.