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Friday, August 26, 2011

Transitioning from a Visionary Leader-Will Apple Lose its Soul?

With the announcement that Steve Jobs is stepping down as CEO of Apple the question naturally gets asked--- Is Steve Jobs what makes Apple work so well?

Organizations with visionary leaders are exciting, innovative and risky all at the same time.  We see these leaders in many different organizations.  A rock star religious leader attracts thousands to his congregation or millions in a TV ministry.  A Sam Walton grows a department store into the largest retailer in the world. A Henry Ford revolutionizes manufacturing with the assembly line and creates a car company that continues to today.  A Thomas Edison invents and General Electric changes the way a household operates.  A Bill Gates develops a software operating system and Microsoft changes how we work and play. A Steve Jobs creates the digital tools with Apple that changes how music is listened to, how we communicate with each other and stay in touch with the world.

To quote one analyst:
Trip Chowdhry, an analyst with Global Equities Research, said Jobs' maniacal attention to detail is what has set Apple apart. He said Apple's product pipeline might be secure for another few years, but he predicted that the company will eventually struggle to come up with market-changing ideas.
"Apple is Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs is Apple, and Steve Jobs is innovation," Chowdhry said. "You can teach people how to be operationally efficient, you can hire consultants to tell you how to do that, but God creates innovation. ... Apple without Steve Jobs is nothing.

One of the most successful ways to lessen the impact of transitions is to not get into the situation of having only one person responsible for any task in an organization.  Working as a team or using co-leaders can ease the transitions as people move in and out of an organization.  Teaming doesn’t mean that there no clear responsibilities assigned to individuals but there is enough joint teamwork that no one person becomes indispensable.

Second there should the expectation when any task is started is that there will be transitions in any effort regardless of the time frame for completion. Transitions will occur as life situations among organizational participates change.  Change is inevitable and should be expected.  Having said that, how you share project information and with whom is something that should become the norm.  The leader or team participant that doesn’t share program information is setting the organization up for transitional difficulties.

My final thought is that like athletic ability, you are either born with vision or not.  It can be taught to a certain measure but most of it tends to be inborn.  Embrace the person in your organization that “thinks outside the box.”  They might be the best person to groom as a successor. 

Still don't know if we are experiencing climate change?  With the description of this weekend's Hurricane Irene being described as a "hundred year storm" haven't we been hearing weather events the past few years described as a hundred year event.  Maybe with our changing climate we should no longer think these are hundred year events.  Maybe we should say they are just this year's major weather event. A new normal.

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