There I was, sitting in the front row covering T-Mobile's big "Un-carrier 9.0" announcements in New York City for eWEEK on March 18, when out walked T-Mobile's un-traditional CEO, John Legere, to a rollicking, loud and booming musical introduction.
The long-haired Legere wore one of his usual outfits, a black leather biker jacket, a dark T-shirt emblazoned with a T-Mobile logo, dark jeans and a pair of red high-top sneakers. Within about a minute or two, Legere had already tossed out at least one F-bomb and some other choice words when describing his hated rivals, Verizon Wireless and AT&T, to the large crowd.
Legere made his remarks, explained his company's new "Un-carrier for Business" offerings and then finished up in a flurry of excitement about 90 minutes later.
What followed absolutely surprised me. There stood John Legere at the edge of the stage, posing for autographs and photos with a long line of audience members—mostly journalists, bloggers and even some T-Mobile workers—as though he were the lead singer for the latest pop band. Legere is often called a rock star in the press. There in New York, I saw it with my own eyes.
What made it most fascinating is that I have never seen this before when listening to a CEO speak at a technology conference, and believe me, I've seen and heard a lot of CEOs as a tech journalist for the last 15 years.
My experiences with other CEOs have been very different.
Legere is part showman, part pitchman and part court jester, presumably allowing himself to reveal just who he is in public and giving his company a non-traditional leg up that is refreshing in a world of executives in suits, expensive haircuts and sameness.
I spoke with Legere for a few minutes just after his presentation and he seemed to be very grounded and down-to-earth, despite his rebel-inspired outfit and raucous onstage persona. He seems like a guy you'd want to sit around with to watch the NCAA March Madness tournament games on the big screen, to laugh with and yell with, and banter about the games.
Never before had I seen a long line of people waiting to get a photo after a CEO's speech like I did at the T-Mobile event. Legere brings his excitement and his edginess to his company, and that seems to be something that many people want to support.
Maybe, just maybe, Legere is exactly what T-Mobile needs to keep pushing its non-traditional ideas and promotions forward in the wireless world right now.
As I watched Legere that day, all I kept thinking was that Verizon, AT&T and Sprint had better keep looking behind them. If being an everyman CEO is what it takes to get attention and bring in more customers, Legere could be just the secret weapon that T-Mobile needs to force continuing changes in the traditional world of mobile carriers.