Watching the recent price reaction in Microsoft immediately following the announcement that CEO Steve Ballmer is planning to leave the company within 12 months gives one pause to think. A quick rise of almost 10% and an addition of close to $19 billion in market capitalization came quickly and unexpectedly, some may say. But should the move have been so unexpected?
By any measure, and as any longtime shareholder of Microsoft would certainly attest to, Microsoft's stock price has languished under Ballmer's tenure. Complete underperformance to Apple and Google immediately comes to mind. And what traders and investors are simply conveying is this: Microsoft will perform better in the future and will be worth more as a company with anyone but Ballmer steering the ship. Wall Street opinion is offered both rapidly and candidly.
Whether or not this assessment is fair to Ballmer deserves to be a case study worthy of examination by future students of a master's in business administration class. What he did right and wrong during his helm as CEO will be debated for semesters to come. Perhaps more interesting to think about are the potential reactions in other companies or organizations if the person at the top were to leave. It seems as though that the leaders of early lean startups (true visionaries), were they to exit, could cause immediate investor disdain, whereas well-entrenched CEO's of large capitalized concerns might create a cause for celebration, a la Ballmer and Microsoft.
People are judged and evaluated within their professional lives each and every day. We all want to feel as though we have made a definable positive contribution to our respective employers and organizations. A wonderful benchmark to shoot for would be to have the public devalue the collective net worth of our employers and organizations as soon as we are no longer active participants within them. Steve Ballmer will never be able to claim that benchmark.