In our increasingly digital world, some people are tossing out their thin cardboard business cards in favor of virtual ones holding far more information, including a résumé and thumbnail of their company. Users can direct those they meet to their online card, via e-mail or a text message, rather than handing them a card. Some prefer the digital cards for networking because of all they can hold, but others maintain that handing out business cards will remain the most popular way to exchange professional contact information. Still others say they’ll use both—hand out an ordinary card with contact information and direct people to their digital one.
Do you think digital business cards are more useful than traditional versions? Would you use them?
Responses to August’s Question
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has returned to work after a much talked about six-month medical leave. While he was away, bloggers, journalists, and technologists buzzed about the impact on Apple if he never returned. Many say Jobs has been integral to Apple’s success and is vital to its future; others say the company would do just fine without him.
Do you think one leader can make or break a tech company like Apple?
In the corporate world, chimps hire chimps. People with little ability tend to surround themselves with employees they can control. They would never hire someone with more ability than themselves, fearful that would make them look bad. The problem with companies like this is that they amass a lot of chimps, and eventually the company goes under very quickly. Similarly, people with ability live on the shoulders of people with more ability than themselves.
Steve Jobs’s key to success has been his ability to surround himself with talented people. The result is the opposite of the “chimp syndrome.” In this scenario, the company amasses a great pool of talent.
Companies with enough talent can survive anything, even the loss of a great leader or corporate visionary. 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.
The problem for Apple may come later, depending on whether Jobs’s replacement will be a chimp. Apple will need an heir to the throne who can focus the company’s talented people on the right products. Focused on the wrong ones, Apple will simply end up with superbly engineered but unwanted products.
Innovation an Exception
Those of us fortunate enough to have worked with people like Steve Jobs already know the answer to this question: He is indispensable. A leader with the vision and values required for continued innovation and success is sadly the rare exception in corporate, political, and academic life. People like Jobs bring the vision and values that overshadow the more readily available commodities of technical, financial, and marketing prowess.
William P. Johnson
Leadership Is Key
I believe strongly that success within an organization is about real leadership. A true leader doesn’t only focus on personal success but on team building, developing other employees’ skills, establishing systems for success, and more. An organization’s future depends on the leader’s achievements in these areas. History shows two examples of this: Some leaders are surpassed by their successors, while other leaders’ departures lead to the decline of their organizations. 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.
Muhammad A. Saber
Jidda, Saudi Arabia
It is possible that one leader can make or break a company if that person is at the core of everything. But true leaders bring long-term success through delegation, mentoring, and opportunities for succession.
I would be concerned if a company’s prosperity relied on a single person, particularly in the case of Apple, where success has come from the development of an excellent product. Ideally, the CEO should have a senior leadership team that passes down business strategy and vision to leadership teams at lower levels, which in turn pass them on to the other employees. If Apple can succeed with a good leader and if it has a solid leadership team, the future for the company is bright indeed.
J.J. Antão and Josinho Antão
Motivate and Cultivate
One person can make or break a company, but with certain caveats. A true leader must get people to think and question, motivate them, and set a standard that fosters creativity. If he lacks these skills, however, others in the organization can make up for the deficit. But left unorganized, the team will not prosper.
Steve Jobs, as far as I can tell, shares many of these qualities. However, the question remains whether Apple could survive without him. Survive? Yes. Prosper? That remains to be seen. A real leader is not afraid to imagine how the company might run without him. I don't think Jobs has done this very well.
No Man Is an Island
Examples from Steve Jobs’s career can help us decipher how dependent a company is on its CEO. For about a dozen years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jobs ran Next. At the time, I was a Mac OS user and a NeXT computer owner. The entire NeXT product line targeted a market that didn’t really exist, and the Macintosh operating system continually failed. I finally swore off Macs in 1997 when I needed some software available only on a PC, and I found that Windows was far more stable than my old Macintosh. I find Apple’s current commercials attacking the stability of Windows to be a sort of karmic joke.
The moral of the story is that one man can make a difference, but not alone. Outside the Apple culture, Jobs’s products failed in the marketplace. Without Jobs, Apple could not keep up with the evolution of the PC. Together, Apple has returned to form as a successful innovation machine. A successful organization needs to build up the strengths of its leaders and minimize its weaknesses.
Jonathan W. Kimball