Recent questions regarding Steve’s health have renewed calls for a succession plan at Apple. While I hardly give two shakes over the “Industry Concerns” cited in the recent New York Post article, I would go a little further and suggest that what Apple needs is not a ‘Succession Plan‘, but a new CEO.
As startling a statement to make as that is, hold the flames for just a few more moments, follow me after the jump to find out why.
Steve’s not really the CEO
Hard-Fact: Steve is might be the ideal CEO because he doesn’t actually try and run the company. He lets his CFO and COO do that. He really does the job of three people as the Head Strategist, Chief Creative Officer, and Company Spokesperson. The good-news: we don’t have to find just one person to fill his shoes.
Mr. Jobs Your Slip is Showing
Apple leaned down considerably on Steve’s return, and it’s a point of some pride how they kept their operation tight. That said, recent snafus with MobileMe and iPhone activations really demonstrate that currently Steve is a single point of failure and a choke point in the Apple creative process. Even if he doesn’t step down, he’s going to have to cultivate some “apprentices” to delegate things to if Apple is to continue their growth.
A Transition Period is better than a Succession Plan
I am by no means arguing that Steve should leave Apple, but he does need to start the process of passing the torch. No one could have imaged GE without Thomas Edison either, but it prevailed because Edison cultivated a cadre of visionary disciples to carry on. Apple too, will prevail, but only if Steve demonstrates the same courage.
Don’t Jump the Shark
Winners leave when they’re on top, on their own terms. Lesser men slink away after launching Vista. Organizations have inertia of their own, Apple’s star is on the rise, and it’s likely to continue to do so regardless of who’s at the helm. That makes now the best possible time for a transition. If Apple waits much longer they risk becoming victims of their own success; an infusion of new blood would invigorate the company as well as spin all us Cultists up in fervor –œHeck, his successor would probably receive more coverage than the iPhone.
Apple could to neutralize the “Health Question” with the addition of a few dedicated apprentices in a way that a mere succession plan never could. Instead of a years of uncertainty and question, we could enjoy years of continued growth and an assurance that Steve’s legacy will carry on. I am reminded of that scene in The Godfather, when Michael takes over the family and fires Tom Hagen as Consiglieri, saying: “Besides — if I ever need help, who’s a better Consiglieri than my father?”
The Achilles heel of this notion of course is Steve’s personality, and if he’d be able to step back and let an apprentice run the show, that said, ultimately it won’t be a question of “if” but “when”.