Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs said Monday that for health reasons he was taking another leave of absence from the daily duties of the company. He says he’s still staying on as CEO, yet it is unclear what that exactly means as his COO Tim Cook, who stepped in the last time Jobs left because of failing health, is assuming control of the day to day company operations.
Apple may very well be in a precarious situation right now because although it is a huge corporation with the biggest market cap of any tech company, its founder/CEO is both a genius and a micromanager. Jobs calls the shots for the company’s business strategies as most CEOs do, but he also has his hands in areas such as marketing and product design. It was Jobs who fought his reluctant board to build Apple stores around the world. It is said that he watches over minute details such as the number of screws on the bottom of a laptop and the curve of a monitor’s corners. It has also been said that he scrutinizes ad campaigns and will say to the marketing team things like, “The third word in the fourth paragraph isn’t right. You might want to think about that one.”
Someone with contacts close to the Apple executive team says Jobs has thoroughly trained his employees to “think like him,” which was what enabled things to go smoothly when he was gone the last time in 2009. The mantra in the company when making decisions became, “What would Steve do?”
As an Apple shareholder this news of course makes me rather nervous. The last time Jobs left in 2009, the stock plummeted. After Jobs came back the stock stabilized and rose to its all time high. When Jobs left, investors lost faith in the company because they felt that Jobs was the reason that the great Apple was the great Apple.
Apple’s (micro)management style has a resemblance to that of many small businesses. Think about the manufacturing companies that Today’s Machining World readers own and work for. If an owner or manager left one of these companies, would the employees say, “What would so and so owner do?” If that were the case, would that be a good thing?
Question: Can Apple be Apple without Steve Jobs?
Alternative question: Would your company be your company without its owner?