Leadership Lessons: When the CEO is synonymous with the brand

There are different types of CEO’s out there. Some are the operational types who crunch the numbers, those who are sales people at heart, those who are visionaries who guide a company in new directions and many more variations of these major archetypes.

Then there are what I call “luminaries”.

Luminaries are those leaders that are identified with their companies so much that their name is pretty much a synonym for their company. Some examples are:
– Bill Gates – Microsoft
– Richard Branson – Virgin Group
– Jack Welch – GE
– Steve Jobs and Apple

The last one there, Steve Jobs, is of particular focus in light of the emerging stock options scandal. When someone who is so closely identified with the brand and is responsible for its growth and innovation and recent rebirth can there be any type of succession planning.

Analysts from Bloomberg to Piper Jaffray think that the stock would immediately drop 25-33% if Mr. Jobs were to leave. That is about $20 billion in market value as of this writing (yikes!).

So as an entrepreneur, you work hard every day to evangelize your ideas, promote your company, lead your team and make your company a success. What you can learn from this?

1.) Evangelize but don’t act like God – You love your company, your people and your products. We get it. Stay humble because it takes one wrong move to knock you down the ladder. The more you think you are a God the more people will be convinced you are the devil.

2.) Share the spotlight and reward others publicly
– Remember that you are not the center of the universe and many smart people in the company helped you get there. If you reward them publicly people will be more familiar with other people especially if they are in the succession plan. Plus spreading the love makes you appear to be the benevolent leader.

3.) Implement a succession plan - This is not to tell people that you are leaving, but rather that you are mortal and will leave one day so there must be a smooth transition. This makes people confident that the company will not suffer abrupt changes when you exit and will get people in place when the change does come.

So for the entrepreneur’s out there. What are you doing to ensure you don’t run the same risk?

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Welcome to Thunderdome: Bill Gates and Steve Jobs on stage at the D Conference

When I read that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were going to be on stage together doing joint appearance at D:All Things Digital, the Mad Max movie came to mind.

My mind kept echoing….”Two men enter. One man leaves. Two men enter. One man leaves.”

Unrehearsed and unscripted? This is rare and should be a memorable event.

This is going to be the ultimate in geek spectator sports and for the entrepreneur’s out there an interesting study in communications styles and how to handle yourself in a tough crowd.

God I hope they stream this for those of us who can’t make it up there.

Source:
Bill and Steve’s Excellent Adventure

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Is the "Cult of Apple" really a cult? – Part 2

In the first part of this post I was talking about an article called “The 8 Marks of a Cult” and took with a sense of humor how Apple might size up to this analysis originally written in 1961.

So let’s take the remaining 4 Marks and see how they shape up…

Mark #5 – The “Sacred Science
Definition: (Taken from “The 8 Marks of Cult“)
The cult’s ideology becomes the ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence. The ideology is too “sacred” to call into question, and a reverence is demanded for the leadership. The cult’s ideology makes an exaggerated claim for possessing airtight logic, making it appear as absolute truth with no contradictions. Such an attractive system offers security.

Observing Apple’s Actions
This is a tough one. Although using Apple is not the ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence, in the IT world everything Apple is sacred and people do demand reverence for the brand in a way that they can do no wrong despite many examples of the contrary (i.e. Lisa, Newton, Mac Clones). Yet the Apple ecosystem does present this air of security because everything works together very well when everything is an Apple product.

Close to the Mark? 6 on a scale of 1 to 10

Mark #6 – Loading the Language
Definition: (Taken from “The 8 Marks of Cult“)
We are all familiar with the use of the cliches “capitalist” and “imperialist,” as used by antiwar demonstrators in the 60’s. Such cliches are easily memorized and readily expressed. They are called the “language of non-thought,” since the discussion is terminated, not allowing further consideration.

Observing Apple’s Actions
Apple’s language for the most part is full of “i” and “Mac” but that is just branding. Where they really hit the mark is “transforming”, “innovation” and “breaking away”. I don’t see it much but it is there.

Close to the Mark? 4 on a scale of 1 to 10

Mark #7 – Doctrine Over Person
Definition: (Taken from “The 8 Marks of Cult“)
Human experience is subordinated to doctrine, no matter how profound or contradictory such experiences seem. The history of the cult is altered to fit their doctrinal logic. The person is only valuable insomuch as they conform to the role models of the cult. Commonsense perceptions are disregarded if they are hostile to the cult’s ideology.

Observing Apple’s Actions
This one is strong at Apple. From what I read if you work there, you don’t really matter insomuch as how you contribute to the doctrine of Apple and its ultimate goal to rule the universe through innovative products that transform industries. It is interesting when you look at the history of Apple . Most recently at Macworld, the name change from Apple Computer to Apple, Inc. might have many thinking it is to allow them to be the Sony of the 21st century. However, it might be to alter the doctrine that the company was a consumer electronics company all along when we know they were and are a computer company. If you disagree, Apple will get hostile with you and might even sue.

Close to the Mark? 7 on a scale of 1 to 10

Mark #8 – Dispensing of Existence
Definition: (Taken from “The 8 Marks of Cult“)
The cult decides who has the “right” to exist and who does not. They decide who will perish in the final battle of good over evil. The leaders decide which history books are accurate and which are biased. Families can be cut off and outsiders can be deceived, for they are not fit to exist!

Observing Apple’s Actions
As for the history books we only need look at the bios like iCon or movies (Pirates of Silicon Valley) where Steve Jobs didn’t have input and got pissed off about it.

As Apple introduces new products it expects to dominate in and almost without saying it has the power to decide who lives or dies.

It is a stretch and therefore a low mark.

Close to the Mark? 4 on a scale of 1 to 10

SO THE FINAL ANALYSIS?
Well, adding up the numbers we get 51 out of 80 or 64%. There is no scale as to what it should be graded but I will say with that high of a number that we can scientifically (yeah, right) prove that the Cult of Apple is a real thing.

So I just want to know one thing. To donate all my possessions and give myself over to the cult, do I have to make the trip to Cupertino or will any Apple Store do just fine”