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Thursday August 25, 2011 6:26 pm
5 things Tim Cook must do to replace Steve Jobs as Apple CEO
In 2009, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs stepped down unexpectedly – for the first time.
Now, Tim Cook, Apple's new chief executive, is in the same place as he was before, being asked to lead a company that's associated, in many minds, with Jobs himself.
In 2009, I asked Marshall Goldsmith, the author of What Got You Here Won't Get You There, and 23 other books, and a columnist for the Harvard Business Publishing Web site what he thought Cook should do. Below are excerpts from that conversation.
Let's talk about Tim Cook. What sort of problems does he face, taking over for an iconic CEO like Jobs?
Big problems. Its not any fault of his. His problems are not that something's wrong with him. His problems are that he's replacing an icon. I was at UCLA when John Wooden was the basketball coach. The next coach was Gene Bartow, who got fired for winning 90 percent plus of his games. He wasn't John Wooden. It's incredibly difficult to replace someone who has seen as an icon.
The only thing I don't think people don't understand about good leaders is that they're both good and lucky. A lot of it is timing. If Jack Welch was still the CEO of General Electric, he wouldn't nearly be the icon he is today. The timing was good. General Electric's stock would have tanked whether he left or if he had stayed. But he happened to leave at the right time and so he came off as an iconic, do no wrong figure. But he was lucky. I'm sure he was a great CEO, but the thing is you can be a great CEO and the corporate results can tank.
With Cook running the company, do people see him as a natural #2, or as someone who is filling in temporarily?
Right now it's unclear, because the message is that he's filling in temporarily. Whether that's a correct or incorrect message no one knows. So right now he is sort of an odd place.
Let me give you what I'd say would be a positive scenario. Steve Jobs is really different than most CEOs. Most CEOs entire identity is running things. Jack Welch's entire identity was being a leader, a manager, a person who ran things. Well, Steve Jobs' major identity is being a brilliant creative inventor, innovator. I believe that Jobs could not be the CEO and still make an important positive impact on the company and not ruin life for another person. Most people can't do that, that's not their identity.
When Bill Gates called himself chief software architect that didn't seem weird, as a human being, not just a runner of businesses. So I think there may be a positive scenario in the future, where Steve Jobs might not be the CEO, and still may make a very valuable contribution to the company. And that assumes that his health stays in place, and doesn't try to run the company during that time.
Also. Perhaps this other person is a better operating manager than he is. I don't think that's impossible. Steve Jobs' image has never been one of an operating manager anyway. Yes, he's a visionary. So he could be a visionary, strategist, look at the big picture, do things that could be inspirational for young people, do things that are positive for the company, without having to be CEO. I think that would be a positive scenario.
As a business consultant: what would be the top five things you would tell Tim Cook?
- Maintain a positive relationship with Steve Jobs: No matter what happens, that's an important part of his job. Because if he doesn't do that, it's not going to work. If he comes across as trying to put him down, or doing anything negative, he can only lose. So job one is maintaining a positive rapport with him.
- Maintain a positive relationship with the board.
- Have a contingency plan.
- Look in the mirror. Figure out what you can do with Steve Jobs helping you and what you can't do without Steve Jobs and start working immediately for all contingencies.
That's four. Let's say the worst happens, and Jobs doesn't come back. What does Apple need to do then?
I think that the company has to work very hard to establish a company identity outside of [Jobs]. He is not the person that stands for all of these things. And you can do that without demeaning him, and you can do that in a way that is positive for him and his history, tradition, and memory.
This article, written by Mark Hachman, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.
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