Mobile CEO of the Year– or how to REALLY love your customers

When Corporate Executive Officers speak, everyone listens.  The only question is, what sort of reception do they enjoy?  Depends on the CEO of course.

Mobile CEOs tend to be a unique breed.  Brash, media-savvy and antenna-focused.  Like relative newcomer to the fold, Steve JobsHis Silicon Valley DNA made him perfect for Lord of the iStuff, so it should have come as no surprise to industry pundits when his zealous microguidance pushed the iPhone through any and all walls of resistance to success.  He didn’t have to rise up through the mobile ranks to achieve greatness there; he already possessed the necessary components, and so success in a new area was simply a matter of applying them appropriately.

But even as I objectively admire Jobs’ achievements, I still don’t care for his manipulative methods. 

In stark contrast to Steve Jobs we have Nokia’s Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, who is in the investor hot seat at the moment.  OPK rarely if ever engages the God-to-loyal-follower mode that Jobs enjoys.  He’s more sober, more thoughtful, and employs his legal background as an apparent foil to deflect more personal contact with his commercial constituency.  He speaks– or rather, intones— the lingua franca of financial analysts, not the patois of the purchaser.

OPK’s clinical style translates to Nokia’s conservative style, and the fairly recent failure of that company to endear itself to certain demographics and regions has to, at least in part, stem from that sterile touch.  Nokia isn’t getting dirty.

There are many I could profile and/or pick apart here, but I want to focus on the one currently-embattled mobile leader who would be blowing up my skirt if I wore one: RIM co-CEO Mike Lazardis.

Lazardis is my kind of industry captain.  He has all the right stuff, especially for the mobile business.  If this ubergeek were on the Apple team he would have been more like the Other Steve you never hear from any more, i.e., Wozniak.  The techie Steve.

When Lazardis is faced with adversity, he doesn’t tell his customers they’re holding something wrong.  No.  This guy’s business is threatened by entire governments, and he tells them where to shove it:

“This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted.  This is not a BlackBerry-only issue.  If they can’t deal with the Internet, they should shut it off.”

And he’s correct.

Of course this is a technical Cold War between RIM and opposing bureaucrats, and someone is going to blink sooner or later.  Lazardis seems confident it won’t be anyone on his side.  And when he takes on those who would tell him to significantly alter his business model, his response is to defend the popular service that has garnered such a strong following– and with that bold stroke, defend the followers.

I have no doubt that RIM will come out of this triumphant, one way or another.  I believe Lazardis’ provocative stance is the appropriate one, and it will pay off.  I’m sure RIM’s customers are rallying as I type.

OPK is a blunt speaker himself, but I don’t get the same sense that he’s square on the side of Nokia’s beleagured customers when he talks.  There’s more defense of a crumbling status quo.  Hopefully he (or a successor?) will figure out soon how fatal that posture is.  One bit of advice: don’t employ the word “passion” in dispassionate tones.

An energetic style is a must.  As for details, I’ll pick substantial over slick any day.  Sorry, Steve Jobs, that leaves you out of this equation.

So bottom line: Jim Lazardis, passionate nerd hero, my choice for Mobile CEO of the year.  And I’m picking him now for the title because I can’t see how any of his competitors are going to top him.  But– they’ve got five months to try.


One response to “Mobile CEO of the Year– or how to REALLY love your customers

  1. I like him as a person, but don’t think his company will survive long without drastic changes in philosophy and strategy for its developer platform. Sorry, but RIM may fall harder than Nokia ever could, and Nokia may rise from the ashes more powerful than before in a few quarters.

    Funny how that works out. OPK may be replaced while Lazardis is lauded, but OPK’s company is on an upswing (many suspect) while Lazrdis’ may be too far gone to recover. Maybe WE’RE missing something, and our thinking is akin to the financial analysts that swore the mortgage business and economy were doing fine…

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