Founders and CEOs
I watched the Steve Jobs movie with Ashton Kutcher last night on the flight to Salt Lake City. It wasn't great to be honest but the board room scences with Jobs, Markkula, and Arthur Rock (and later on John Sculley) were pretty compelling.
Having been through some of that myself over the years, I winced when Arthur Rock came down hard on Jobs and was depicted as a patronizing father figure. Mike Markkula got much better treatment and came across as the good guy who tried to to the right thing by Jobs.
The pivotal scene in which Sculley decides he can't do the CEO job effectively with Steve Jobs in the company and asks for a board vote to choose between the two of them, which goes his way, is painful to watch.
One wonders what would have happened had Jobs stayed in the company, worked with Sculley for a while, and then ascended to the CEO job when he developed to maturity and managerial instincts for the job. The story of Google, with Eric Schmidt in the Sculley role, and Larry Page in the Jobs role, is instructive here.
Did Jobs' personality make that impossible? Was Sculley guilty of not trying hard enough to build a functional partnership wtih Jobs? Was the board guilty of not trying harder to make the situation work?
I've read the Jobs book as well and it seems that this was a very tense and emotionally packed situation. In situations like that Boards really struggle to get things right. Ultimatums are made and Boards are asked to make a decision.
One thing I know is companies are better off when their founders remain involved in the business, even if they are not the right person to run it. That is not always possible and sometimes a scenario like what happened to Steve Jobs plays out. But it's not the ideal way to resolve these conflicts.