Leadership

Steve Jobs and Apple: Beginning of the end?

Many believe that the fate of Apple has always rested in Steve Jobs hands. In this blog, John M. McKee considers the outlook for the #1 tech company in the world.

Can a single leader make -- or break -- a huge organization?

Is Apple finished?

This week it was announced that the founder and visionary of Apple, Steve Jobs, is again leaving the company for medical reasons. The trade papers and general news organizations have been filled with comments and observations about "what's next" for Apple.

Many expected that their stock price would tumble. Pundits reasoned that the company has been so successful because Jobs is a uniquely talented leader and no one can replace him.

Others said cooler heads should prevail, stating that no organization of this size is entirely driven by one person. Beside, we've already seen that the company's COO, Tim Cook, will be very capable in Job's absence -- having filled in for him previously. Reinforcing those opinions, last night the company released its results. They blew away even the most optimistic forecasts.

Where do you stand? Has Apple seen its best days? Is it all downhill from here? Or will the company continue to lead and grow despite Job's absence?

Looking forward,

John

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

46 comments
jfreedle2
jfreedle2

Apple does not produce one product that is noteworthy, and have become the Big Brother that they have critized in the past. It is time for anybody to put Apple in its place, in the ground.

gechurch
gechurch

It will only be the beginning of the end if Jobs is replaced by someone significantly worse. I would definitely expect an initial decline while the new leader learns the ropes - even if they get someone great they have to learn and will make mistakes.

darije.djokic
darije.djokic

If a had misread Amelio?s role in the downwards slide that happened during his tenure as incompetence - mea culpa. It is possible that he just dutifully followed the orders of the pinheads in the Board since the company was clearly in better shape when he entered than when he exited. Even if he tried to convince them otherwise, he failed, unlike Jobs that succeeded after his reentry. That poses an interesting moral/ethical question in general as well as pertinent to Apple?s future in particular. Is a CEO morally always obliged to follow the owner?s (or their representatives) bidding just because they are the masters no matter how incompetent business-wise they might be (forget the one that says that the owner always knows what is best for the company - that is nonsense, an owner may well be ignorant or shortsighted enough not to now what is best for himself, so less for the company). Or, should he oppose decisions that will in his (hopefully) more competent opinion be harmful for the company, even if the owner does not care for the moral obligations towards the customer base, that clearly exists once a brand has established itself among it, tying them to the company product(s)? The first approach might be politically better career-wise in the short run (?If they think that is what they want, why should I care if they fail??) for such a CEO might get the reputation for being an obedient servant - a thing that the masters (including the potential new ones) always like. The second, based on the notion that every enterprise is a much broader thing than just a Company (customers, sub-contractors, the community it operates in, etc.) and that there are moral/ethical obligations that do not finish with the ones towards the owner (?I have to save him/them from themselves for the betterment of all.?). This approach might be better in the long run - usually people tend to forget the reasons why a company during a CEO?s tenure failed, but they will remember that it was during that CEO?s watch, and who will want to hire a loser. Apple?s future might be better evaluated once we see the behaviour of Steve?s successors (once he is definitively out of the picture for good), and that of the Board.

keayers
keayers

Apple has grown beyond being "just a company". It is a culture; a mindset. Steve Jobs revived the company and set the tone for a new culture. His presence will surely be missed, but don't you think the rest of the company - the culture - "gets it"? I do. Rock on, Apple!

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... they can get someone near the top who has the same kind of vision and attention to detail Jobs does. Tim Cook is the COO--the one who ensures things run smoothly, but Jobs had his finger in every pie, wanting to make sure the product was as close to perfect as it could be before release. He was much more willing to leave 'features' out of a product if it ensured the rest worked perfectly. John Scully, Apple's first corporate CEO pointed this out himself. http://www.cultofmac.com/john-sculley-on-steve-jobs-the-full-interview-transcript/63295?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+cultofmac/bFow+(Cult+of+Mac) I think Tim Cook could keep things going for quite a while, but Apple needs a visionary who can look into the future for new ideas if they want to stay ahead.

K_Green
K_Green

Apple is a cult of personality, admittedly run by a very capable central figure. However, I predict he will die during this latest medical leave. He did not beat pancreatic cancer; almost nobody (including my mother) does. Another CEO will take over, perhaps Tim Cook. The company will be run quite well for some time, and continue making profits. They will even come out with some new versions of their products, etc. But eventually, the existing product ideas in the pipeline, driven by Jobs' vision, will all be completed. In the mean time, the new management will not have that same vision or fanatical attention to design detail. Slowly, but inexorably, new products that come out after the Jobs era will lose their focus and sexiness. People other than Apple fanboys will look elsewhere. And when they look elsewhere, they will find Android-based tablets and phones. They will find Windows 8 (or 9) based PCs, and a smattering of Linux PCs. The will find plenty of music player alternatives. And Apple will see themselves become the too-expensive-for-what-you-get option that fewer and fewer people buy into.

sealbee
sealbee

This survey is missing an answer. What about the possibility of the company doing better?

aureolin
aureolin

This is why Microsoft and Google have never really worried about Apple. The cult of Apple is really the cult of Jobs. When he's gone (perhaps surprisingly to some in this forum) Apple will do fine. What they will loose is the 'cache', the 'specialness', that separates Apple products from the rest of the pack. Apple will become just another provider of high end and expensive consumer grade electronic products and the playing field will level considerably across all the markets they compete in. The clock is ticking.

john3347
john3347

While Steve Jobs has vision and drive that has helped Apple achieve the success they have achieved, Steve Jobs also has a very arrogant attitude that spreads throughout the organization and inhibits progress to some extent. Perhaps a leadership that is more tuned-in to customer needs and desires would further promote the company and the company's products with it.

Spiritusindomit
Spiritusindomit

The problem apple will be facing soon is that they're nearing the end of possible permutations of the screen + touch input devices. They took the mp3 player, made it more accessible, then they made it bigger, then they made it a phone, then they made it a tablet. The problem is not so much that the devices won't be there as they will be commoditized. When that happens, only the cult of Mac will be paying through the nose for the hardware.

Nsaf
Nsaf

How about all the other employees working hard for Apple?..Steve Job is very important, but Apple won't be the Apple it is if it wasn't for the hard work of others too.

rob123q
rob123q

This will not end Apple, it has too many followers to ever die. Good luck to Steve in his upcoming health issues. I hope you will get well and return soon. Microsoft needs your push to keep them on their toes

trichardson
trichardson

He was a drug taking leader who's visions came from LSD and POT. One can not argue however that he was successful selling multicolored plastic with an apple logo. This is not the end of the world and Apple is not our future.

john.morrison
john.morrison

Apple floundered until Jobs returned, and started to progress after his return. Many of the moves they made were bold, and appeared to buck some of the trends. However, there are other factors to consider: OSX is diverging fast from its Linux roots, under the hood, and this is disturbing me enough to re-consider my 3rd Mac purchase, and look hard at the other options. The iPhone is still based around applications, despite the world heading toward a service model - a charge google is embracing.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

OS X has nothing of Linux in it, rather it started as an offshoot of BSD Unix and is now a certified Unix in its own right. Things may be changing for OS X, but I don't think it's in the core kernel, but rather in the GUI atop it.

mikestreib
mikestreib

It takes a LONG time to bring any great enterprise to its knees. As long as it continues to be a well managed company, Steve Jobs legacy is intact. In fact, his legacy will remain stellar regardless.

biancaluna
biancaluna

I am not sure that it will make a big difference, however, the Mark Hurd HP story does show that the attitude of the top dog is reflected in the company as leaders typically engage and attract those like them. So good leaders attract good people, ruthless killers attract those that are like them and that is reflected through the company. I have always thought Jobs to be a good leader. I wish him all the best, but it does not bode well. If anything, he has left something behind that is pretty spectacular, whether you are an apple fan or not.

Con_123456
Con_123456

Still persuade us that they have the same talent as the men, just did not get the opportunity to show it. It only remains to establish quotas for the purchase of certain brands and success is guaranteed. :)

ChrisEvans
ChrisEvans

Chances are even if he 'steps down' he will not 'step out'. He and Gates are much of a muchness, that company is in his blood and call him 'advisor' or 'consultant' I am sure his presence will be felt there for many years to come.

bernard
bernard

The industry will lose it's leader, creative genius and the most innovative leader it has ever known. A master of management, especially the HR segment of Apple. He will be missed by everybody who has ever had the privilege to know and work with him. A true legend and a once in a lifetime friend and mentor. Apple will survive and thrive, the legend he will leave is such that it would take tremendous effort to alter it.

darije.djokic
darije.djokic

Small and mid-sized companies can go downhill if their charismatic founder end/or leader that made it great goes. Specially if the successors or new owners are not competent enough to select a worthy replacement (that almost always happens when an outsider is brought in to ?refresh the blood? - read: Gil Amelio - 70-80% of such interventions end badly, opposed to reverse the numbers when the successor is selected from within the company). Even if the enterprise does not go bankrupt, being bought-off and incorporated into a former competitor can be seen as a failure. But when a company surpasses a certain size, if some major earthquakes inside or in the field/economy does not happen, it is unlikely that it will not survive the passing of the guru. Mercedes is stronger than ever, the exit of neither Herren Deimler nor Benz did not harm it, ditto for the Hewlett and Packard gentlemen. Apple is now hopefully big enough to survive, but change with time it probably will.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

John Scully had been told in '93 to find a buyer for Apple. He solicited some major players, but nobody wanted it. He stepped down of his own volition and, after a very short term with a second CEO, the Board of Directors selected Amelio to carry out their wishes. By that time, the majority of Apple's assets were in long- to middle-term investments, the actual computer division slowly winding down. Problem was, Amelio basically drove Apple towards dissolution, not marketability to other companies. I don't know who or why Apple decided to buy NeXt from Jobs, but the result was that Jobs ended up on the Board himself through that purchase and pushed for Amelio's firing. Is Apple too big to fail? I don't think so. An 'average' or lesser CEO could drive it down just as rapidly as Jobs brought it up. Proof of that could be seen in how Ballmer has let Microsoft slide to the point that they're now years behind the competition on almost every product line. Even as big as Microsoft is, it's effectively stopped growing and is now seeing its OS dominance eroded away by both Apple and Google.

jforonda
jforonda

This could be another tipping point for the company.

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

work out, but I am sure Apple will carry on. Steve Jobs, he is young and I hope he can get better, but the odds are not in his favor.

henrysmal
henrysmal

His Power Mac G5 has boot up Board Problems w/ no exchange of the Board's sliver flaws on it and its never for the customer, Its always "us Apple",AND There's No we the pp. for the customers, when are you going to fix the $4,889.99 G5 2.66-2.8Ghz aluminum towers steve?PP paid lots of money for your G5 and all are dead, don't you think a/b the PP??

steve
steve

You left out one option in your poll..."Who Cares?"

lpkelley63
lpkelley63

Steve, we love you! Best wishes!! Find a precocious 20 year old to do the creative thing. I know a 30 year old who could do a great job. Not a relative of mine...just an acquaintance. Steve Volpp Acme Branding

EricHenry
EricHenry

Though not an Apple fan, I do have to give credit to Steve, not so much in that he is a good leader, but also because he is a bit of a visionary. Should he step down permanantly, I think there will be a small loss of status for them, but nothing they couldn't regain as long as the new leader retained a sense of vision. Lacking vision, they will slowly erode to the point where they no longer create and innovate, but instead copy and occasionally improve someone else's designs.

Chief Bottle Washer
Chief Bottle Washer

Apple never has and never will use the same tactics as Microsoft. Sure both companies snapped up smaller companies to gain the rights to software code developed by said company. The difference is that Apple actually improved the purchased software while MS removed the software from the market thus controlling competition. Truly the best thing that ever happened to MS is the purchase of Bungy, a Macintosh based company, creators of Halo, with restrictions to write code exclusively for the Xbox. Zune MP3 player - failed due to sloppy software implmentation. Entry into the smart phone arena - still failing and again due to sloppy software implentation. Windows 7 - just a re-merchandised combination of Longhorn and Vista. What a joke. Have you guys tracked the stock values of both companies? Didn't think so. Mr. Jobs may or may not have chosen and trained a replacement but with Steve's return to Apple he eliminated all the deadwood and cleaned up his garden. The fruits of his labor is showing. The MS IT community, by and large, is not as vile as the few individuals that continually spout their vitriolic propaganda-and those that do are just a stooge.

John Sawyer
John Sawyer

I agree. But, though much of what Apple has done over the years has been initiated by Steve Jobs (relationships with parts vendors, emphasis on typography-level character display, OS X, etc), let's not forget that the Mac wasn't Jobs' idea (though once he understood its value, he pushed it hard), nor even the candy-colored, gumdrop-shaped first iMac that really kicked Apple's profits and popularity back into high gear (when he came back to Apple, he found the design among work Jonathan Ive had done, but which Apple hadn't yet implemented, and Jobs moved the project forward). So, what Apple needs after Jobs' eventual departure, is someone who (like Jobs) can recognize and encourage good work within Apple (and outside it too), and move forward with it, and who doesn't follow too many of the usual trends of design, marketing, etc. that doom both the generic box manufacturers, and manufacturers who try to be too clever without putting enough thought into the viability of their products. They also need to take the time to learn the specific DNA that Apple is composed of, that has made it successful, rather than just come to Apple with a generally innovative attitude. They also need to learn the specific DNA that has made Apple stumble so often, and remove that. If Apple finds another CEO with a broad set of skills and knowledge who can propose and implement a variety of clever things, that would be great, but it would be best if they work at structuring management (if they haven't already) so that more than one person is relied on for such a wide range of skills. It would also be nice if they get someone who opens things up a little--Jobs has become a little too fond of hermeticism as being Apple's path to success (though contrary to the image, he's not the only one in Apple management who follows that path).

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

"... let's not forget that the Mac wasn't Jobs' idea..." "When I first saw the Macintosh ? it was in the process of being created ? it was basically just a series of components over what is called a bread board. It wasn?t anything, but Steve had this ability to reach out to find the absolute best, smartest people he felt were out there. He was extremely charismatic and extremely compelling in getting people to join up with him and he got people to believe in his visions even before the products existed. - -John Scully http://www.cultofmac.com/john-sculley-on-steve-jobs-the-full-interview-transcript/63295?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+cultofmac/bFow+(Cult+of+Mac) "... nor even the candy-colored, gumdrop-shaped first iMac that really kicked Apple's profits and popularity back into high gear (when he came back to Apple, he found the design among work Jonathan Ive had done, but which Apple hadn't yet implemented, and Jobs moved the project forward)." Wrong again. Apple had gotten stuck in the rut of "pizza box" PCs and Jobs turned to Ives with the order to "... make me something I would be proud to show off in my living room." Jobs pushed the design of his products from day one as an engineer and as the CEO. Prior to Jobs' return to Apple, Ives' design skills were totally wasted.

John Sawyer
John Sawyer

You'll note that quote is from John Sculley, not the most technically-oriented of Apple CEOs. The creation of the Mac has been well-documented, and the Mac was further along than not being "anything" than Sculley realized, by the time Jobs realized what his development team had come up with. Do some research into Jeff Raskin and the rest of the Mac development team. The rest of your quote by John Sculley is accurate, and fits with what I originally commented. As you say, "prior to Job's return to Apple, Ives' design skills were totally wasted". Among those pre-Jobs-return designs was one close to the gumdrop iMac. Ives did not create that design whole cloth in response to Jobs' direction.

Chief Bottle Washer
Chief Bottle Washer

Thanks to all the previous CEO's with the worst of them all was Emilio.

b372028
b372028

I really don't think it will make much of a difference. I think Apple is on it's way out either way. http://bit.ly/dI3hcF

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Maybe it's true that the iPhone 4 on Verizon is "behind the leading edge." However, the iPhone 4 is still the single most popular smart phone on the market, no holds barred. Yes, I could expect an iPhone 5 (or maybe 4G) to come out in June, but that's not a legitimate reason to say "Don't buy just because it's not the newest thing." Their listing of the iPhone 4 back in July marked it as the best smart phone on the market--scoring a 79 when the best competitors barely made 75. These numbers didn't change when CR took the iPhone off it's 'recommend' list due to 'AntennaGate.' Interestingly, CR comes up with this as a conclusion: "Bottom line: You may want snap up this new offering if you've been waiting breathlessly for the iPhone to come to Verizon and don't much care about 4G speed, a bigger screen, or other features found on current cutting-edge phones. Or if you're prepared to pay an early termination fee to trade in the Verizon iPhone 4 for its successor when it appears. The less iPhone-addicted consumer, on the other hand, may want to hold off for a newer version of the iPhone before even considering whether to buy one." http://blogs.consumerreports.org/electronics/2011/01/verizon-iphone-4-promising-but-shortlived.html

bboyd
bboyd

Not sure he is a great leader, he is however the real core of apples stock price. Decay in entities as aggressive as apple is inevitable. I like to think of business is a Revolution->hard fought growth and formation of an identity. Republic->formation of the core of the business Dictatorship->strong leader leads it onto the world stage Bureaucracy->stagnation and decay until the barbarians crest the gates Unless a new dictator is ready at the helm decay seems inevitable, of course I hate dictators and hope the other innovators come to the fore.

Slayer_
Slayer_

But I think its going to be a big hit for Apples shares right now, but the company will become totally crippled if/when Jobs passes.

mwagner
mwagner

It's not like he's dead. It's just a leave of absence.

khward
khward

John The title of your article is totally insensitive to Steve Job's present condition. Why not leave all the speculation to those that know the facts as opposed to trying to garner random and sometimes uniformed thoughts from your readers. I sincerely hope you do not have to take time off for medical reasons but then perhaps we could speculate on your fate.

brian
brian

I can understand why you are sying that the article is totally insensitive to Steve Job's condition, but i think he is asking for an opinion of weather Steve Jobs was an innovator above many others out there, and Apple with out him, what is going to happen in our opinion. I do not believe he is trying to be insensitive, but instead to me he is refering to Steve Jobs as one of the best innovators in the business. It does pose an interesting question though, what is going to happen to Apple while Steve Jobs is on a leave of abscence or if Steve is forced to leave the company due to medical conditions. This is just my opinion of the article though.

info
info

...Life and Business still go on without even the best of us. The World doesn't stop.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner like.author.displayName 1 Like

As a person, should be foremost.

sealbee
sealbee

I agree. Where does our callousness come from? When I heard about this I was just concerned for him then a day or two later I'm picking on the survey question options.

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