Steve Ballmer and Geezer CEO syndrome
Android. iPhone. Internets. Get off my monopolistic lawn, you damn kids!
It has got to be hard to have billions of dollars and still feel motivated to kick ass. I don't care who you are and how big your ego is, but really, billions of dollars, no cure for cancer in your repertoire, no Sistine Chapel, and no visible benefit to mankind - surely you know, deep in your heart, it's time to mentor, to step aside, to do something besides the daily grind.
Steve Ballmer is a geezer CEO. You can tell because, he is still stuck in the same mental fortress that Microsoft put him in when he started out with Gates. It's a relentless pursuit of a vision that has been, to put it frankly, fulfilled.
It's Windows this, and Windows that. It's Office this, and Office that. Game over. You won, dude. Stop telling us how great you are because of what happened thirty years ago. That's right, three decades ago Microsoft got the deal of a lifetime. A one in a billion shot in the dark that turned into mind-blowing riches.
But, geezers don't move on that easily. They tend to have a history and they've earned the right to rest on their laurels. Ballmer isn't going to cut it in the mobile space because he is a geezer CEO. He won't be able to hire anyone to cut it for him either because, he doesn't offer them any glory. Just a really well kept lawn.
Working at Microsoft is like working at any other blue chip company: it's great benefits, status, established business and relationships, and consistency. It's geezer heaven. You don't go to blue chips to change the world. You go there to have a career. In Ballmer's case, he was already an integral part of the greatest era in modern industry, the PC revolution of the 80s and 90s. No one gets two bites at the Apple.
Suck it readership. That was a great pun to work into an article. And I wrote it.
Perhaps Ballmer should learn from these geezer CEOs:
1. Larry Ellison of Oracle. Larry gets around and not just when he is sailing in mega-yachts. He has property in Malibu and is friends with David Geffen. I mean, he is a geezer by rights, but a pretty cool one at that. Flies jets, appears in movies, buys up hotels and has really, really great suits.
2. Steve Jobs at Apple. Dude wears turtlenecks. He is the biggest independent shareholder at Disney and got there by taking Pixar off of George Lucas and turning it into an animation powerhouse. He couldn't give a crap about the stuff that made him great. He has moved on. Instead, he goes after the stuff that breaks other people down: at one point it was personal computer versus IBM then, the iPod versus the music industry, and finally, the iPhone versus the military-industrial complex as personified by telephone companies. This geezer's lawn is made of white silk and hangs upside down at a museum.
3. Jen-Hsun Huang at Nvidia. Oh, shucks, who can look at that smooth baby face and think it belongs to a geezer. And he played table tennis, very successfully, as a teenager, getting into Sports Illustrated. And, he was really nasty to Intel. Intel is a geezer god so, anytime you go against it you are kind of the anti-geezer.
4. Giorgio Armani at Armani SPA. Geezer is old enough to be Ballmer's grandpa, but he looks like a billion bucks. Okay, he is no tech titan, but his business is more ruthless and more ageist. Yet, there he is, running the show, and making all other geezer CEOs look like rejects at a raisin tanning salon. His use of Speedos at the beach may disqualify him on grounds of insanity.
5. Jeff Bezos at Amazon. Super dorky in pictures, but he is into space ships in a big way. That makes him ungeezerish. The Kindle may turn him into an uber-geezer if he is not too careful, but that goofy smile would melt the heart of the most cold-hearted twenty-something hipster. He also hired Neal Stephenson at Blue Origin. Uber-cool!
Ballmer, man, just get a fresh start. Think outside the box. Do something other than holding on to the past. You is geezering your way into trouble, dude.