Steve Jobs Departs but His Influence at Apple Will Not Fade

By Ed Silverstein August 25, 2011

The decision by Steve Jobs to step down as Apple’s CEO was going to come sooner or later.

So Wednesday’s announcement, that Jobs will remain on as chairman with COO Tim Cook taking over as CEO, is not a shock. Jobs continues to have some significant health problems. In recent months, Jobs had a very limited role for the company while on medical leave, reported TechZone360. The company has done well in the interim with its rich pool of talented executives and employees.

Still, Wall Street being Wall Street the markets reacted to the announcement. Apple shares on Thursday morning fell $6.57, or 1.8 percent, from Wednesday's close. They were down in Thursday morning pre-market trading, too.

“Excess volatility accompanies big news,” explained Joshua Gans of the University of Toronto writing for the Harvard Business Review blog. “That also means that Apple's share price will likely bounce back when it announces strong earnings and new product releases. Jobs will never be a distant memory, but his hand is imprinted on the company's future.”

“Apple without Steve will go on,” agreed Mike Abramsky, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, who was quoted by The Los Angeles Times. “Steve was involved in every detail of product, marketing, execution, deal-making (carriers, studios, etc.) and had the vision and gravitas to bet on disruptive innovations.”

How did Jobs’ influence become so strong in a company with so many extraordinary innovators?

In a recent Harvard Business Review blog post, James Allworth, Max Wessel, and Rob Wheeler – fellows at the Forum for Growth and Innovation at Harvard Business School – noted how Jobs “embedded himself so deeply within the cultural fabric of Apple that the company no longer needs him.”

“Jobs has slowly infused his way of thinking deeply within Apple. Jobs has forced Apple to repeatedly tackle the task of conceiving, developing, and marketing revolutionary products. In doing so, Jobs has created a culture within the company that is capable of exactly that,” the authors said.

Earlier in his tenure, Jobs was known for screaming at employees. “His tantrums became legendary all throughout the Valley. Nobody who worked at Apple enjoyed being on the receiving end; they either conformed to what he wanted or they found themselves looking for a new job,” Allworth recalled. “But it wasn't long before they started thinking like he did – thinking different – as it became apparent that doing so would not only let them avoid a tongue lashing, but it also formed the basis of making insanely great products.”

The Apple culture has developed in such a way, added Allworth, that whenever a decision is made at Apple “the employee has one overriding thought: What would Steve do? … If anything, the Messiah's departure is only going to make his influence there grow stronger still.”

Similarly, Roger Kay, writing for Forbes.com, compared Jobs to the wise ruler of Biblical times, King Solomon.

“Like Solomon, he commanded his minions to undertake great projects and summoned them to show him the results,” Kay said. “If they fell short, he sent them back again and again until they met his exacting standards. Projects could be late, but they could never be lousy.”

Other commentators have praised Jobs as a “visionary” and “innovator,” reported CNN. For example, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera said on CNN's Piers Morgan show, “Steve Jobs is one of the great innovators in the history of modern capitalism…. His intuition has been phenomenal over the years.”

Mike Lee, a former Apple senior engineer, reflected on the announcement this way in a blog post.

“I knew the day would come when Steve Jobs would retire, and I could have predicted that I would blog about it, but I didn’t expect to cry,” Lee revealed. “The feeling of tears welling up in my eyes took me by surprise. It wasn’t the shock of the announcement, or the soonness of it, but the implication of it. … I'm crying because I never got to meet Steve Jobs, never got to shake his hand, never got to suffer his direct criticism. I'm crying because I'm afraid I never will.”

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Ed Silverstein is a TechZone360 contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

TechZone360 Contributor

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