It seems like a lifetime ago when Steve Jobs took over Apple for the second time as iCEO. Jobs ran Apple for nearly 15 years before pancreatic cancer took his life. Tim Cook stepped into the CEO position and has run Apple for almost four years. At the time Tim Cook was a good choice. He was a safe choice. He wasn’t going to rock the boat or try to pretend to be Steve Jobs II. He would take what was a growing and great company and drive it forward, building on its success.
That was back in 2011, and times were different. Apple’s needs were different. While Cook has indeed grown Apple’s value and savings account, the question is what kind of leadership does Apple need going forward? Is safe and steady the right formula or does Apple once again need a visionary to lead it into unchartered waters?
Under Cook’s leadership Apple has yet to have a new category product that has wowed public. Apple Watch was to be that product, coupled with the niceties of Apple Pay. The jury is still out on both. While both are a well thought out product and service, neither has that wow factor like the original Mac or iPhone did. Even the first iMac had a coolness to it that properly branded Apple as the innovator of tech.
Quietly in the background sits Jonathan Ive. One has to wonder, when Tim says he’s done will Ive will be next to take over the helm of Apple? Ive is more like Jobs than Cook — especially in the visionary department. However, one wonders whether he has the expertise to lead an executive team — many whom are driven to take the top spot. Managing engineers is one skill, managing executives is quite another. Both Jobs and Cook have done a masterful job of keeping Apple’s top brass happy and the infighting to a minimum. That could be because Apple continues to win, and as all sports teams will tell you, winning cures any number of ills lurking just below the surface. However, if Apple Watch isn't a huge success, and MacBook becomes the next Cube, executives might start to grow a bit restless.
Is Tim Cook the right guy to lead Apple into the car market, or does Apple need a more dynamic pitchman at the top? While we’ve all seen Ive in videos describing the design of a new product, he has rarely been seen live, on stage, during a Keynote presentation. While other Apple executives get their turn sharing the stage with Tim, Ive seems to have stage fright. If that is the case, holding the top spot is probably not in the cards for the knighted Englishman. Apple fans want to see their CEO once or twice a year, proudly proclaiming new products and services.
As many would say, if something isn’t broken don’t fix it, and Apple is certainly not broken. Yet sometimes the best management decisions are made before the crisis and before it is obvious to everyone that a change is needed. Like a good baseball manager who knows when his pitcher is done before everyone else does, Apple’s board of directors should continue to back Cook, but also have someone warming up in the bullpen just in case.
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