After thirty long years, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer finally stepped down this year, signalling the end of an era at the tech titan. For the first time since his announcement, Ballmer opened up to the Wall Street Journal about his departure.
Last year Ballmer, 57, was facing intense pressure from Microsoft executives to turn around the company, and to do it quickly. Ballmer had been the company's CEO for over thirty years, guiding them from his Harvard dorm room with classmate Bill Gates to record profits, but his time was starting to wind down. The company failed to capitalize on the emerging mobile or social markets. "Maybe I'm an emblem of an old era, and I have to move on," Ballmer tells the Wall Street Journal now. "As much as I love everything about what I'm doing, the best way for Microsoft to enter a new era is a new leader who will accelerate change."
In October, he told the Microsoft board his plan was to stay with Microsoft for another four years. He wanted to wait until his youngest son graduated high school before retiring. Ballmer even started holding "cloak-and-dagger" meetings to find his eventual successor. After meeting with a friend, longtime Ford executive Alan Mulaly, Ballmer vowed to change his management strategy. He usually ordered his lieutenants to hand in detailed reports, and encouraged divisional competition. His new initiative was meant to foster cooperation and simplicity. His lieutenants weren't sure how to handle the "New Steve." Ballmer's fellow executives wanted Microsoft turned around quicker than Ballmer's four-year plan, and they weren't hesitating to let their dissatisfaction known.