Meg Whitman Leadership
Meg Whitman (1957- )
Chief executive of Hewlett-Packard since 2011 (pictured right) and ex-boss of
eBay, the online auction site, who helped it become one of the world’s most successful
As the Republican candidate, she failed in her attempt to become the Governor of California in 2010.
Why is she a great
1. Vision and purpose
She wanted eBay to be people’s first choice when they shop, buy or sell online, making them feel part of one big
happy family and delighted with the company’s service (see point 2).
“The company truly is built by the community of users”, she said.
2. Delighting customers
Her top priority was the delight and loyalty of customers by giving them the best possible service.
So sellers are checked through customer feedback and given quality ratings.
She bought PayPal in 2002 to make buying easier and continually listens to customers.
In 1999 she launched the “Voice of the Customer” policy, where a dozen loyal customers
were invited every few months to eBay’s head office in San Jose, California, to express their views to Whitman and
3. Principles and integrity
She is driven by her principles, particularly her love and respect for people.
She treats her employees as equals and is honest, charming and down-to-earth (see point
She was also keen that eBay should be ethical, banning the sale of firearms, alcohol and
tobacco in 1999.
She sees herself as a “level 5 manager” (the term used by Jim Collins (pictured right) in his book, Good to Great) i.e. humble (never
arrogant) and unassuming but fiercely determined to succeed.
“She’s frumpy but delivers” is her modest description of yourself.
She doesn’t like special treatment and like everybody else had a cubicle office, keeping in touch with employees
and their views.
She gave employees freedom, responsibility and encouragement, so that they could give the best possible customer
She has been called the “chief executive enabler”, helping other people to succeed.
“Enable, not direct. Use carrots, not sticks”, she says.
So she appointed category managers at eBay who were responsible for each of its main selling categories e.g.
collectables, music and movies, and cars.
6. Picks good people
She recruited talented people from other companies like Gateway’s Internet expert, Maynard
Webb (pictured right).
7. Lifelong learning
She loves learning.
She did an MBA at Harvard Business School
Her jobs at Disney and Proctor and Gamble taught her a lot about marketing and customer satisfaction.
When she arrived at eBay, its founder, Pierre Omidyar (now its chairman, pictured right)
taught her about the Internet.
She also learns from her mistakes, like in 2001 when she supported eBay’s own payment system despite customers
preferring PayPal. So she bought it!
8. Cool and decisive under pressure
She calmly deals with any problems and, once she has made a decision, she puts it into
action as quickly as possible.
She also wants to be first in a foreign market, a lesson she learned after Yahoo! got into
Japan first and forced eBay out in 2002.
9. Lover of change and improvement
She was never complacent about eBay’s success, making sure it was constantly changing and
improving, so that it could stay ahead of its competitors like Yahoo! and Amazon.
When she became chief executive, she concentrated on exploiting eBay’s strengths (online
trading) rather than finding out what was wrong and fixing it.
She seizes new strategic opportunities after assessing their profitability and cost.
Cost control and cash availability are two of her top
10. Ambition, hard work and relaxation
Her parents taught her to be ambitious and work hard.
She set challenging aims to motivate employees like winning the huge Chinese market.
She also likes to relax with her family (her husband, Griff, is a brain
surgeon, pictured right dancing together).
Key quotes on
It’s all about the customer.
We think of customers as people, not wallets.
Key quotes on leadership and
It’s O.K. to make mistakes as long as you fix them quickly.
If you can’t measure it, you can’t control it.
Enable, not direct. Use carrots, not sticks.