Can Steve Jobs Be an Ideal for CEOs?

Despite being crowned as the “CEO of the Decade” by the Fortune Magazine, Steve Jobs still doesn’t qualify to be an absolute ideal for CEOs, argue management gurus.

December 15 2009 by Fayazuddin A. Shirazi


 

Although Steve Jobs is being revered as one of the most successful CEOs of the decade, corporate experts think while he (Jobs) makes a perfect recipe of a successful CEO, he cannot be conceived as a role model for others to follow. There are a host of issues with Jobs, which experts believe, his peers shouldn’t be learning from him.

Commenting in his blog – Counter Intuitive – George F. Colony CEO and President of Forrester Research says there will certainly be many useful lessons from the Steve Jobs/Apple repertoire, but what is that we shouldn’t be learning from him is also crucial, points out Colony.

He is of the opinion that Jobs’ customer oriented business model doesn’t suit for all kinds of business environments. Many of his (Job’s) strategies do not apply for a wide array of businesses, he says.

According to Colony Jobs’ ideas concerning design, speed, innovation, research, and development are not universally acceptable across all business lines. “It’s doubtful if the brand manager for Cheerios or the supervisor of a DuPont chemical plant can gain much inspiration from the Apple story,” he feels.

“Apple innovates for consumers who do not have complex systems problems and who don’t talk back. Steve likes to do it his way without interference or meddling,” says Colony describing Jobs’ business model and his personality traits.

He feels Jobs’ strategy crumbles when he has to cooperate with others or make compromises for customers, or develop products that must fit into a wider, systemic world. “You’ll see evidence of this as Apple tries to negotiate with a widening set of independently-minded wireless service providers,” Colony wrote in his blog.

Colony is of the opinion Jobs’ approach wouldn’t work for companies which innovate, launch or introduce a host of complex products very often. He says Apple’s portfolio of products is pretty small and it doesn’t make many products — six Macs, four iPods, two iPhones, and Apple TV — that’s it.

“If Apple tried to build a car, it would take it three years just to design the dashboard. Now it would be an extraordinary dashboard, but Job’s fabled micro-management would stall the delivery of a finished automobile,” Colony reiterates.

Likewise, Apple’s fear-based management style also wouldn’t fit in people-intensive businesses, he says. Colony thinks it’s an easy bet for Jobs to run a company like Apple in his own style, but “if he has to run companies such as Accenture, Cap Gemini, or the U.S. Department of Commerce with the confrontational attitude, “…you’re not very smart/I’m going to fire you, it will not work,” points out Colony.

Interestingly, Fortune Magazine commenting on Jobs personality traits and style of functioning said: Jobs likes to make his own rules, whether the topic is computers, stock options, or even pancreatic cancer. The same traits that make him a great CEO drive him to put his company, and his investors, at risk, the Fortune article noted, adding that Jobs judges the world in binary terms.

“Products, in his view, are “insanely great” or “shit.” One is facing death from cancer or “cured.” Subordinates are geniuses or “bozos,” indispensable or no longer relevant. People in his orbit regularly flip, at a second’s notice, from one category to another, in what early Apple colleagues came to call his “hero-shithead roller coaster.”