One analyst suggests that Apple without Steve Jobs will decline because as sociologist Max Weber suggested, organizations change after their charismatic leader is gone:
Weber described three essential business categories: Legal/bureaucratic, traditional, and charismatic, with the latter companies typically helmed by individuals with the “gift of grace.”…
“Followers and disciples have absolute trust in the leader, fed by that leader’s access to nearly magical powers. Charismatic authority repudiates the past, and is in this sense a specifically revolutionary force.”
According to Colony, Apple chose a “proven and competent executive” – Tim Cook – to succeed Jobs. Nevertheless, the analyst believes the new CEO’s “legal/bureaucratic approach” will prove to be a mismatch for an organization that feeds off the gift of grace…
“Apple’s momentum will carry it for 24-48 months. But without the arrival of a new charismatic leader it will move from being a great company to being a good company, with a commensurate step down in revenue growth and product innovation,” the analyst predicted.
I guess we can wait and see if Weber’s ideas apply to this situation. Weber described this transition after the loss of a charismatic leader as a process of routinization where the group bureaucratizes this charisma.
A few things make this process more messy:
1. At one point, Steve Jobs didn’t have this “magic” either such as before he was inventing things or when he stepped down from Apple. This suggests that context matters: certain ideas are produced or take off based on a variety of other circumstances.
2. Judging by the recent stock price, investors don’t seem too worried about Apple’s future. At what point will they and other start publicly suggesting that the loss of Jobs is a really big hurdle to overcome? Is this an “acceptable” reason for a company to plateau?
3. Shouldn’t one measure of a good leader be the ability to empower others to take over and do well (or even better?) in the future when that leader is gone? If so, perhaps we should be asking whether Jobs was equipping others at Apple to succeed after him or not.
4. Is this an inevitable process for groups that lose a charismatic authority?