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BlackBerry bounces back from near-dead

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

In 2013, BlackBerry was bordering on bankruptcy. Now it’s surprising many of its critics by showing signs of a dramatic turnaround under its new CEO, John Chen.

The tech company’s stock has nearly doubled and its latest quarterly earnings report beat analysts’ estimates. Industry observers credit Chen’s stabilizing influence.

He joined BlackBerry in late 2013 and immediately took action. He made a series of decisive moves to refocus the firm’s strategy and restructure the organization, and he leveled with employees every step of the way.

“He’s very quick at making decisions,” says John Sims, a senior executive at BlackBerry. “He doesn’t put things off to tomorrow or next week or next month.”

Many tech CEOs shy away from the limelight, especially when operating in crisis mode to rescue a sinking company. But Chen prefers to remain accessible and transparent to both internal and external audiences.

When BlackBerry hosted a recent “security summit” in New York, Chen mingled with journalists about 15 minutes before he was scheduled to speak to the crowd. He joked that his PR team dreaded when he mixed with the press.

Chen’s willingness to chat with journalists—and even answer their questions in an engaging manner—proved a winning strategy. It led them to reassess their views of BlackBerry, which under its prior executive team was known as a secrecy-obsessed fortress.

While the company’s future is hardly assured, Chen has revitalized its culture and attracted a passionate band of newcomers to help right the ship. They follow his lead and communicate openly and honestly to pursue smart ideas and make bold decisions.

— Adapted from “Culture shock: BlackBerry’s John Chen ushers in much-needed change,” Carmi Levy,

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