Binary Star System


  • “An interesting aspect of many of the most successful high-tech companies is that they seem, at least for a time, to follow a ‘binary star’ system, with two people in essence sharing the CEO’s job – one person focusing on the technical side of the company and the other on key business issues. Notable examples of this approach include Gates/Ballmer, Warnock/Geschke, Jobs/Wozniak, and Cook/Prolux.”

Merrill R. Chapman makes the above observation in his ‘In Search of Stupidty’ book. He also highlights the example of Napoleon who would be on many historians’ list of great individual leaders. But Chapman makes the case that fully half his strength was his “managerial second tier”. And, he attributes Napoleon’s downfall at Waterloo as a material consequence of losing key marshals like Berthier, Lannes and Davout.

This ‘binary star system’ of complementary partnerships is a vital strategy to melding Leadership and Management in the executive role. One of this blogs most read pieces is an assessment echoes this perspective, in the case Chapman himself cites, of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer legendary duo.