Chris Woodruff Blog

Steve Ballmer–Following a Legend Never Goes Well

26 Aug 2013 - No Comments

In sports following a legend never goes well and the coach that does follow is usually not successful. Take a look at the following examples:

  • Lou Holtz retired from Notre Dame in 1996 and 4 coaches later they are still waiting for that level of success.
  • Indiana’s Bob Knight was forced out back in 2000 and Indiana basketball has not done much in terms of NCAA tournament wins and national championships.
  • The biggest example is John Wooden and UCLA. Following his retirement Gene Bartow received death threats and even though successful was run out of UCLA.

What does this have to do with Steve Ballmer? Following a Legend in sports as well as business is never easy. Especially following one of the tech industry’s founding icons Bill Gates. The new leader is overly compared to the Legend and is criticized even when they are successful because the success they achieved is associated to the foundation the Legend built or they could not get the returns that the Legend was perceived to have gained through the Legendary years of the team or organization.

Was Steve Ballmer a victim of following Bill Gates? Did he just continue the path Gates set and Gate’s Vision for Microsoft? Or did he have success but could not succeed following Gate’s years of building Microsoft to the tech leader ii enjoyed in the 1990’s? Will we look at Ballmer as a failure or as a CEO that was successful but could never get from out of the shadow of Bill Gates?

I think Steve Ballmer was a good CEO that had to endure years under the thumb of the press due to the DOJ Anti-trust ruling, being compared to Bill Gates and also creating a few missteps that allowed other companies to overtake Microsoft in key technical positions.

It will be fun to read the articles, blog posts and books that will cover this subject for the next year and beyond.