Like many reporters engaged in the shady business of covering the Australian telecommunications sector, I spent Friday, 6 October, at Telstra's mammoth eight hour investor briefing in Sydney.
While the day saw the debut of Telstra's shiny new national 3G mobile network, it will no doubt go down in history more for the sprinkler malfunction that doused a bunch of high-profile executives during the morning, narrowly missing Telstra's own captain, Sol Trujillo.
The event prompted such memorable press headlines as:
- Rogue sprinkler rains on Telstra's big parade
- Sol shrugs wet blanket
- A Sol-destroying shower
- Sol proves he's no fish out of water
- Telstra still rains supreme
Your writer's favourite line would have to be these very amusing comments by Australian Financial Review writer Jennifer Hewett:
"Ever since his arrival on July 1 last year, he has repeatedly said that people should 'catch the vision or catch the bus'. On investor day it turned out they needed to catch the wave as well."
Looking back on the event after more than a week, the thing that most strikes me about the day was what Trujillo's reaction to the malfunction revealed about his leadership style.
If a similar problem had interrupted a speech given by Trujillo's opposite at Optus, Paul O'Sullivan, you can imagine the jocular Irishman laughing it off and charming his audience with a joke.
Hutchison chieftain Kevin Russell certainly wouldn't have let such a minor problem phase him, nor would Cisco's firm-handed local managing director Ross Fowler have missed a step.
But as the downpour caused mayhem in the audience, Trujillo retreated to the side of the stage and stood dumbfounded and silent with global Alcatel CEO Serge Tchuruk, his on-stage conversation partner.
It appeared as if Trujillo had no lines left to read, with the day's highly scripted and stage-managed events irrevocably interrupted.
Now it may be the case that Trujillo has other, more important skills that make up for whatever flaw left him speechless in the middle of Telstra's public relations nightmare.
And the executive certainly made amends to his drenched audience later on in the day, dropping puns about the soaking and putting his credit card behind the bar at Sydney's pricey Hilton Hotel.
But I'm afraid the event left the impression on your writer that Telstra chairman Donald McGauchie and the rest of the board may not have hired a great leader in Sol Trujillo. Merely, perhaps, an adequate one.
What do you think about Telstra's Sol Trujillo? A great leader and visionary or looking a little worse for wear? Drop me a line at email@example.com or post your comments below this article.