The death of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) co-founder Steve Jobs earlier this month at the age of 56 focused the world's attention on his leadership skills. While many have criticized his style--saying that he was autocratic, demanding and dismissive--the general consensus was that he was a visionary. He transformed multiple industries, from personal computers to music to mobile.
Leadership is a concept that's tossed around rather loosely in business. Sometimes though, one simply knows it when one sees it--or its absence. A company that flails for years because of inept leadership can be as stark an example in the industry as one that comes out of nowhere or rises from the ruins and rebuilds itself. Business leaders often rely on the people that surround them, but are also the person most shareholders, analysts and industry watchers hold accountable for the performance of the company they lead.
In introducing the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Jobs showed bold leadership. The flip side to good leadership is the often spectacular failures of some executives that lead their companies astray. Either through lack of foresight, the inability to alter strategies quickly enough to changing market conditions, inept communication skills or a combination of all, there are numerous executives who have botched the job.
It's never easy to dwell on failure and poor execution, but it serves a purpose in underlining the pitfalls that can take down even the largest companies. For instance, as Nortel Networks' bankruptcy demonstrates, even once-mighty industry titans are not immune to poor leadership and a lack of strategic direction. We picked a few of the most high-profile executive flops of all time. Click here to check them out.
Conversely, there have also been executives who have come in and righted the ship, often through remarkable headwinds and against the odds. These comeback kids often charted radically different courses than their predecessors because that was precisely what was needed at the time. They offer bold thinking, radical strategies and occasionally even a revolutionary product or two. These executives demonstrate that all hope is not lost. Click here to see them.
Did we miss any executive failures or did we err? As always, please let us know in the comments. --Phil