Yahoo needs “some friggin’ breathing room.”

So said the new CEO of Yahoo, Carol Bartz, during a media conference call this week. I agree, but it looks like “the street” may be less patient. At a stock price of about $11.60 as I write this blog, the company’s value has diminished a fair bit since the beginning of the week when the announcement of her hiring was made public. Seems the pundits aren’t interested in being too patient.

Readers of this blog will know that I’m not a huge fan of Jerry Yang’s leadership or management. While I suspect he’s got an IQ higher than most mortals; I believe he made some boneheaded decisions over the past four years. Consequently, Yahoo today is not as great as previously. That said, it’s very good that he finally stepped down and brought in a professional leader to take the organization forward. The primary question is, will it ever reach its former level of relevance? And, secondly, is Carol Bartz the right person to take Yahoo forward?

Many observers say that she’s the wrong choice at the wrong time. Citing her lack of experience in an organization that makes money in the advertising industry, and the continually increasing pressure from Google, many industry watchers are saying she simply is not ready to do “what’s needed”. I disagree.

What’s needed from a new leader in any organization (including one as important as Yahoo,) is what’s called “clear eyes”: Any individual placed in a new role has to be able to size up the issues and priorities being faced. And time, as the lawyers say, will be of the essence. The new leader’s assessment has to be done very quickly. With no emotion, prejudice, or bias (s)he needs to see clearly what and how is required and then how to get those tasks completed in the most effective manner. Also quickly.

I think Carol Bartz is exactly that type of individual. Her plan for an immediate “deep dive” into the workings of the company and the existing plans is precisely what I’d recommend to any new head of state who sincerely wants to get a handle on strengths and weaknesses of – and within – the organization recently joined. It shows interest and care to all those watching the early actions of the new boss. That showing is itself an encouraging action and statement of direction to them.

And to those who worry about her so-called lack of experience; they may want to do a little homework on Ms Bartz. She sits on boards of companies like Cisco and Intel each with their own opportunities and handicaps. She’s worked at Sun and ran Autodesk, a leader in CAD. She’s been underestimated by rivals and pundits in the past and succeeded where others have failed. Great leaders often say they’ve experienced similar responses to their arrival by the way.

Whether Yahoo does a deal with Microsoft or another organization like Time Warner, or if it remains as a freestanding organization with fresh direction and objectives, I’d bet it’s going places.


Leadership Coach