The sad news that Steve Jobs (Apple’s boss) is going to take medical leave raises speculation that he has had a return of the illness that led to a liver transplant in 2008. The announcement looks to reassure the public that the company remains in good hands, with the Chief Operating Officer, Mr Cook, taking care of the day-to-day management of the company.
The press release was made on a US Bank Holiday when the US Stock Exchange was closed, yet the value of Apple stock immediately fell by 6.4% on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Having said that, just yesterday, Apple announced record profits (£3.7bn) and record revenue for the last quarter (in the lead up to Christmas) – a smart bit of PR from the US company. It’s almost as if they new the news of Jobs’ illness would have an impact upon the value of it’s stock, and thought to announce record profits immediately after, in order to overshadow the fall.
Great business visionary
Getting back to Jobs and Apple, there are very few companies that largely owe their success to one man. However, Steve Jobs’ turbulent relationship with Apple has seen the technology company rise, fall and then rise again, to new heights, under his visionary leadership. I can remember when he first talked about “convergence” (where all your documents, pictures, music and work would be kept in a single place and accessed from wherever you happened to be). Initially it seemed like a fanciful approach, yet with the rush to cloud technology, the age of physically stored media seems antiquated.
Is he a good leader?
A key role of leadership is talent spotting and nurturing, making sure you have a system of continuous renewal and ensuring that you are replaceable. This approach is understandably uncomfortable for many leaders operating in highly competitive environments, yet it is at times like this that the needs of the company (and the people who work in it and with it) come before the needs of a single individual. If a key role of leadership is building teams of people who can confidently take over from you then Steve Jobs and the Apple board have failed to make this happen.
What does the future hold for Apple?
The markets are fickle at the best of times. However, the reaction of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange clearly indicates the market’s perception is that the future of Apple is closely linked to Steve Jobs. The impressive market performance of Apple over the last three years will ensure stability, if not recovery and continuous growth will mean that Apple can return to a higher stock price. However the launch of the new Apple iPad and iPhone later this year will signal whether Apple still has the creative impetus to remain the technology hot-shot of 2011!
I think most readers will join me in wishing Steve Jobs a speedy and full recovery.