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There was a time when one might say, “Steve Jobs’s Apple.” He co-founded Apple, Inc. April 1, 1976, with Steve Wojniak and Ronald Wayne, owned it, and operated it. Now, after he and others who joined him built a g lobal computer behemoth one might say, “Apple’s Steve Jobs.” He successfully built a company bigger than himself. Or did he?

In the wake of Jobs’s recent announcement that he’ll once again step away from Apple for an indeterminate time on medical leave, industry analysts are wondering aloud if Apple can withstand a long term or permanent Jobs departure. In other words, how important is Steve Jobs the persona to Apple’s success?

I don't know Steve Jobs but wish I did. I don't know his personality or character, but I'll root for him on his medical leave. His business, leadership, and marketing acumen are, if not unique, truly rare, and the impact his technological vision has made on America, mostly for the good, is phenomenal. I pray his cancer issues can be vanquished.

Other business leaders evidence exceptional talent for innovation, leadership, and marketing. Think Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Googles’ Sergey Brin and Larry Page, even Martha Stewart. But there’s not as many leaders like this as people think. Jobs stands apart from nearly all of them.

For Apple to continue to do well it will need to continue to develop creative new products like the iPhone, and iPad. But the real test of Steve Jobs’s legacy, which is to say if Apple thrives for years after he steps down permanently (and as I said, I hope that’s not now), will be his leadership skills. The question yet unanswered is how well will people he’s recruited and developed do in leadership after he’s gone?

In Jobs’s earlier medical absence, COO Tim Cook became the interim company top executive and company voice. He apparently handled this task with aplomb and was richly rewarded for it. He now steps in again.

A lot of leaders lead well, even exceptionally, during their run. But they fail to develop leaders around them for the time to come after their run. For the organization this can be a fatal mistake.

Preachers, I might add, are especially inclined to do this, too often leaving their church floundering once they move on—and everyone, eventually, moves on. Reassignment, Retirement, Illness, Death…every leader moves on.

So I will pray Steve Jobs returns to health and I’ll watch the company. The latter will offer many lessons in leadership.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

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