Steve Jobs, Apple’s Founder and Legendary Innovator, announced he would resign from his CEO post several weeks ago. Jobs co-founded Apple in 1976. Many people would consider Jobs a visionary leader. Tim Cook, who had been Apple’s chief operating officer, was named acting CEO.
Cook is quite familiar with this position. Since January, Cook has been acting CEO due to Jobs’ medical leave. Jobs’ absence for the company could mean more financial trouble for Apple. To shareholders and investors, it’s déjà all over again. Jobs has been battling a series of illnesses (i.e. battling cancer, a liver transplant, etc.) that have forced him to take medical leave three times in seven years.
A good vision, clearly communicated, can propel an organization into high performance. In fact, a well constructed vision has several advantages, including (a) it captures senior executives own views about the long-term direction of the organization, (b) it reduces the risk of careless decision making by managers at all levels, (c) it builds support from employees at all levels and help convey a shared vision, and (d) it helps an organization prepare for the future.
John Gamble and Arthur Thompson, authors of Essentials of Strategic Management, argue the staying power of a good vision: “An engaging and convincing strategic vision has enormous motivational value – for the same reason that a stone mason is inspired by building a great cathedral for the ages.”
Who will be the next master mason for Apple? Jobs had to come out of retirement in 1997 (a 12 year hiatus) before to rescue the struggling company. With Jobs at the helm, Apple began making its creative presences heard with iPhones, iPads, and iPads.
In fact, what separated Jobs from the rest of the CEO pact was his keen strategic mind and vision. Columnist Margaret Heffernan noted the shear persona of visionary leadership: “It was because, at the beginning of the century, Jobs had put in place a product plan aimed at one great external future event: the moment that broadband penetration in the U.S. exceeded 50%. Once that occurred, digital entertainment became technically and commercially feasible.” Many will predict the demise of Apple once Jobs is finally gone.
Why? Steve Jobs is Apple. Cross Research analyst Shannon Cross observed about Jobs’ impact on Apple, “Steve Jobs put in place at Apple a culture of innovation.” Yet, many organizations will find themselves in a similar situation when their visionary founder is no longer a part of the organization.
How does an organization sustain a solid vision when the founding or inspirational figure is no longer communicating that vision to the organization?
© 2011 by Daryl D. Green