Author: Prucia Buscell
Apple without Steve Jobs?
As analysts consider
what Jobs' resignation as CEO means for the future of Apple and
businesses that Apple inventions transformed in the computer, music,
entertainment and media industries, it is impossible not to ponder two
more elusive questions. What individual traits and tendencies combine
with external circumstance to makes a high impact leader? And do we
value superstars more than stellar collaborators?
William Taylor, co-founder of Fast Company magazine, analyses our adoration of individual brilliance. In his June 21 post, Taylor calls star power one of the "great dividing lines in our business culture today."
Which works best-fielding a well-balanced team or assembling a
collection of great individuals? It turns out that's an emotional
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asserted in a New York Times story
that an exceptional person is 100 times better than someone who's just
pretty good and his view is echoed among top executives determined to
recruit the best and the brightest. Taylor responded with an essay "Great People are Overrated"
"Have we become so culturally invested in the free agent, the lone
wolf, the techno-rebel with a cause," he asked, "that we are prepared to
shower millions of dollars...on a small number of superstars rather
than on a well assembled team" that achieves through collective
capacity? He was surprised by the vitriolic responses.
Taylor admires Jobs,
Zuckerberg and other power innovators. But he presents compelling
evidence for the value of teams, the diversity of groups, and the belief
that character is as important as credentials. He cites the success the
Barcelona Football Club-hailed as the world's best soccer team-has
gained by emphasizing character, team spirit and regional pride as well
as athletic skill. He quotes an Economist essay that tells how team members were taught self-sacrifice and perseverance.
In addition, Taylor quotes fascinating work by Harvard business theoretician Boris Groysberg, who studied 1,000 star Wall Street analysts
and found most suffered immediate and long term performance declines
after changing jobs. The reason, Groysberg concluded, was that their
earlier excellence relied heavily on their former firm's resources,
culture, networks and on their former colleagues.
What made Jobs great? A Newsweek profile offer clues. Jobs was notoriously picky about who got to work for him. Jobs also broke every management rule, Joe Nocera wrote in a recent New York Times column.
Jobs was a dictator, a micromanager, yet gifted with unerring aesthetic
and business sense. His powerfully charismatic persona drew willing
followers. But he was brutal with those who disappointed or irritated
him. (In 2008 after Nocera criticized Apple's secrecy, Jobs phoned him and called him a slime bucket.)
Nocera writes that Jobs
is "on a very short list of the greatest American businessmen ever."
Nocera says Jobs basically transformed America: he virtually invented
the personal computer when he was 21, and was responsible for developing
the mouse and windows and so many other features associated with modern
computing. Then came the IPod, the IPhone and the IPad.
Taylor, in his HarvardBusuiness.org blog, says Jobs' body of achievement suggests five questions leaders and innovators can ask themselves:
- Why should a great person want to work for you?
- Do you know a great person when you see one?
- Can you find great people who aren't looking for you?
- Are you great at teaching great people on your team how your organization works and wins?
- Are you as tough on yourself as you are on others?
Compare Taylor's questions with Newsweek's compilation of Jobs' Ten Commandments.
Maybe the best superstar/stellar collaborator preference could be both/and instead of either/or.