Gentry: Microsoft's Leadership Problem

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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Much has been written about Microsoft since the company reported its third-quarter earnings last Thursday afternoon. While gains in the stock since the announcement have shown that investors are, on balance, more willing to buy the recent news than to sell it, precious little attention has been given to the announcement of another departure from Microsoft's executive team.

On Thursday the company's CFO Peter Klein, an 11-year veteran of Microsoft and the company's CFO for the past 3 and a half years, announced that he would be leaving the software giant at the end of June. Klein's move adds yet another name to a long and growing list of high-level executives that have thrown in the towel at the software giant.


Since Microsoft's earnings release, advocates on both sides of the investment debate have gone to great lengths to share the positives for the stock or to call attention to the pitfalls that lay ahead for the company. The problem is that one basic ingredient has been missing from the debate that will play a critical role in determining the success of investors: the strength of Microsoft's executive management team. The recent developments in the computing industry have accentuated the need for true visionary leadership from the highest levels of Microsoft.


When reflecting on Microsoft's rise to prominence in the technology sector, it is revealing to consider that Microsoft has not been a leader of new product innovation throughout its storied history. The company's dominant position in personal computer operating systems, its control of the suite of personal computer office applications, its position in dedicated server software, and the company's leading position in gaming consoles are all examples of businesses that Microsoft was a later entrant into the market. Through unwavering determination, strong scale and in many cases considerable capital advantages (and, at least from the point of view of the European Union, questionable competitive practices), the company ultimately established a dominant position in these markets.


This is worth noting as taking command of these markets required management vision, commitment and drive to successfully identify the markets soon enough to make a difference and to confidently allocate resources to missions with uncertain outcomes. Sure-handed leadership to the legions of talented employees within the company was needed to promote the development of competitive product offerings.