What is Apple without Steve Jobs? This unanswered question … caused their stock to take a hit (though it has since recovered a bit)… generated critical editorials, and… now the SEC is investigating whether the Company properly handled disclosures.
This all happened because the market thinks Steve Jobs IS Apple, which means any risk to Jobs is a risk to Apple.
How did Apple get into this situation and what can they do about it?
Steve Jobs is only the most extreme example of what happens when a company builds its brand around one person and doesn’t showcase its “people depth”.
The iconic Steve Jobs was effective in giving Apple a face and a mystique. But the focus on Jobs took the spotlight off the team that makes Apple great.
Jobs health woes give Apple an honest opportunity to showcase their management depth and their strong team of “up and comers.”
Apple could take a page from GE – which has benefited for years by publicly acknowledging their succession planning. And, then making the necessary investments to back up the talk.
So, what can Apple do? Here are a few suggestions…
1) Take the succession planning exercise seriously.
2) Cultivate and promote a culture of leadership development and sustained investment in building a deep management bench.
3) Make management comfortable with competition by smoothing a path to an appropriate consolation prize for those who don’t take the brass ring.
4) Nurture your relationship with the press – use it to effectively get the new message out about its brilliant team.
This would probably make both Steve Jobs and Apple’s shareholders feel better. And, it would reassure millions of Apple fans around the world.