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When it comes to replacing a charismatic visionary founder like Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs, history shows us everything changes.
Let’s take a look at three of the world’s major religions: Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. All three spiritual frameworks were founded by charismatic visionaries. All three religions had an indisputable leadership structure while their founders were alive. All three religions splintered into multiple sects following the death of their founder.
Why were there new factions in what, during the life of the founder, seemed like an objective and unified organization? Because once the founder died, new personalities and perspectives competed to interpret the founders principles and their application to evolving times.
The same is destined to happen at Apple.
Bluntly speaking: organizations run by charismatic visionary founders are dictatorships. Sure, other members of the leadership group provide valuable input; but, the leader makes all final decisions without appeal.
That dictatorship and complete deference to one leader disappears when the leader departs. The void is immediately filled with Machiavellian egos viciously competing for the former king’s throne.
In the case of Apple, even if Jobs leaves a plan for succession creating a dictator or a set of dictators overseeing each core product — iPhone, Mac, iPad, iPod — at some point those leaders will be succeeded and Jobs will no longer be able to rule from the grave. (See “A Visual History of Apple iPad’s First Year“)
Moreover, even if Jobs creates a detailed plan of succession, vultures in the C-Suite, shareholder base, and outside the company will expend tons of resources to usurp what is arguable the most successful consumer electronics company in history.
So, as financial and tech media sites debate the details of how Apple will transition to life without Steve Jobs, simply take a moment to look at how history shows us cults and religions change once their founders leave the sheep behind.
When you look at Apple’s logo, you’ll see a metaphor for the company as Jobs takes a bite on the way out the door.
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