How Indispensible is a Leader? We’ll Now See

Reflecting on readers’ thoughts of an Apple without Jobs

21 October 2011

It’s been more than two weeks since Steve Jobs died, and the media, fans, and analysts continue to wonder what will become of Apple without its visionary leader. I was just in Disney World in Florida and Jobs’ absence was even felt there—with flags flying at half staff [shown below].

Jobs had several ties to Disney: he was CEO of Pixar Animation Studios before it was bought by Disney, as well as the company’s largest single shareholder. He also served on the board of directors of Walt Disney Co. Despite those connections, it was still strange to see the effects of his death in “the happiest place on earth.” And in between the fun rides, great food, and good times at Disney World, I couldn’t help but still feel a tinge of loss each time I saw one of those lowered flags. Clearly I’m not alone in having that lingering feeling. Memorials continue to be held, including one at Stanford University on 16 October.

read Photo: Ania Monaco

Headline after headline has asked how Apple will survive without Jobs. We also wondered about that same issue after he returned from a medical leave in 2009, so we asked our readers to weigh in with our Question of the Month. It asked whether one leader could  make or break a tech company like Apple.

Members responded with many interesting perspectives. “On the day Jobs is no longer at Apple, that great mass of talent will still remain, though perhaps not with the same high focus or vision,” said Alan Miller. Many felt there simply could be no replacement for Jobs: “Those of us fortunate enough to have worked with people like Steve Jobs already know the answer to this question: He is indispensable,” wrote William P. Johnson.

Others said Apple would continue to prosper as long as Jobs had laid the foundation for success with business best practices. “The fate of an organization depends on the systems its leader has established and on his or her ability to develop a healthy working relationship with employees,” wrote Muhammad A. Saber. One member said credit for Apple’s success did not belong to a single person. “…One man can make a difference, but not alone,” said Jonathan W. Kimball.

Check out the rest of what they had to say here. And share your thoughts below on whether Apple can survive without Jobs.


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