When a visionary needs a partner
Q: The ongoing privacy controversy at Facebook raises the familiar dilemma of what to do when fast-growing startups threaten to outgrow the management abilities of creative young founders. The Google guys got kudos for bringing in industry veteran Eric Schmidt as CEO, but things didn't work out as well when Pepsi's John Sculley took the reins from a young Steve Jobs at Apple. What's the leadership wisdom here?
Visionary entrepreneurs often start out with a business partner (Bill Gates and Paul Allen; Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak) or with a band of creative buddies (Mark Zuckerberg & co.) Sometimes the partnership takes root and flowers, as it did with Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. But often the partners and buddies disperse, once they have some capital of their own or the promise of a new adventure and the fun of transforming an idea into a going concern is over.
Then the visionary may be in trouble. As the business grows he may, like Steve Jobs, lack the people skills and organizational knowledge needed to run a complex company. Jobs was thrown out the first time he tried to run Apple on pure charisma. But he learned that he needed to partner with someone with the skills he lacked. In his second coming, he hired Tim Cook as COO and the rest is history.
Gates understood his limitations early on and recruited Steve Ballmer as a manager to complement his visionary role. Many of those who accompanied Zuckerberg to Silicon Valley have gone on to other activities. How well he recruits and partners with their replacements will determine the future of Facebook.
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