Silicon Valley’s ‘coach’ shares leadership tips

When it comes to Silicon Valley’s tech scene, Bill Campbell has seen it all.

He was an executive vice president at Apple in 1980s where had a front row seat for the famous Steve Jobs, John Sculley schism that ended with Jobs resigning from the company he co-founded.

“That didn’t work out too well,” Campbell deadpanned during his onstage appearance at last week’s [AlwaysOn Summit]( at Stanford.

He currently is an Apple board member and says of Jobs, who is also a neighbor and friend:

“He has personal idiosyncrasies …. But there is not a thing he does that is not perfect. He won’t do it if he can’t manage it. He cares about every pixel on the screen and surrounds himself at Apple with people that believe the way he does.”


Campbell was also CEO of once high-profile startup Go Corp, which got a lot of buzz for its pen computing software for tablets. He’s also served as an advisor to numerous top tech execs including Amazon (CEO Jeff Bezos), Google (founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin) and elsewhere. For the past ten years he’s been chairman of Intuit after a stint as CEO.

His motivation tips extend back to the 1970s when for six years Campbell was the head football coach at Columbia University.

Campbell told [the audience of investors and tech startups](/webcontent/article.php/3833056/Twitter+Rules+for+Now+But+Whats+Next.htm) not to “mistake charisma for great leadership. An HR person Debbie taught me this a long time ago, your title makes you a manager, your people make you a leader.”

There’s no magic to becoming a CEO, Campbell said, insisting anyone in the room could achieve it. “You need to understand the fundamental management practices and that’s not hard to get.”

Looking back at the dotcom crash he says too many companies were worried about money. But he’s not all that sure the criticism that there was too much emphasis on attracting “eyeballs” or hits to a Web site, was all that unfounded.

“You really want the product to be accepted and you have to be sure people are using your Web site, service or product. Some people got bad marks in 1990s for (a strategy of collecting) eyeballs, but you look today, there’s something to be said for the wonderful acceptance of Facebook and Twitter.

**”I’m a growth guy”**

“I’d rather have their problem then someone who says I can charge $5 and get three customers.” Given the choice of quick money versus growth, Campbell says “I’m a growth guy.”

What he tries to do as an advisor is “course correct.” Campbell says he has basic beliefs about how a company should be managed and grow in a way that’s sustainable. I try to help the management team get better every day,” he said.

Those basics include answering questions like:

“What are we doing that we can really ship?”

“Who is it for?”

And Campbell is a big believer in R&D investment. “Without great products you’re never going to be a great company,” he says.

At Intuit he says they might have five projects in development at any one time.

“If two make it that’s great, if three that’s a home run.”

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