Apple’s former CEO Steve Jobs was a hands-on leader, and with his recent death, many are wondering if the company he co-founded will continue with its string of very successful products. This has put a great deal of pressure on two men: Tim Cook, the new CEO, and Jonathan Ive, the Senior Vice-President for Industrial Design.
Of course, both men are accustomed to pressure, as they have spent years working for Steve Jobs who was well known for his perfectionism and willingness to fire employees who displeased him. Consumers benefited from Jobs drive to make the best products possible, but that didn’t make him an easy man to work for.
Tim Cook: A Charisma Gap?
The person who took over and has run Apple since the beginning of this year, and now has the title of CEO, is Tim Cook. And now with Jobs passing, he is also going to need to take over as the visible face of the company.
Cook has a degree in Industrial Engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration from Duke. After graduating, he worked at Compaq and IBM. He was hired by Apple in 1998 shortly after Steve Jobs returned to running the company, and was put in charge of improving the process for manufacturing Mac computers. He has moved up steadily, and has been essentially running the company on and off since 2004 as Jobs dealt with serious health problems that caused him to take several leaves of absence.
Although Cook has proved over the years that he has the skills to manage Apple as a business, there’s no doubt he lacks something Steve Jobs had in spades: charisma. Some have questioned whether Apple can continue to be successful without a charismatic leader at its helm.
Perhaps the best answer is to look at the issue from another direction. Steve Jobs was undoubtedly brilliant, but he was also well known for his ability to make employees cry. Cook, on the other hand, is also brilliant, and is perhaps better at managing people.
In addition, people who know both Cook and Jobs say they have one thing in common: competitiveness. Like his predecessor as Apple CEO, Cook is in business to beat his competitors — salary and perks are barely on his radar.
Tim Cook’s skills as a manager combined with his desire to make the best products possible might make him just the leader Apple needs to continue its string of successes.
Jonathan Ive: Into the Limelight
Although Steve Jobs was sometimes given full credit for designing Apple’s products, he was really part of a team. A critical part of this team was a self-effacing man who has worked behind the scenes for decades: Jonathan Ive.
Although he is new in the role of being responsible for designing Apple’s products, Ive is hardly a new-comer — he has been leading Apple’s design team since 1996. He’s been part of the team for so long that he was even there when they designed “the Newton”, the world’s first PDA, in the early 90s.
This was early in his career, after graduating from Newcastle Polytechnic. He tried a stint as a freelance designer before coming to work at Apple during the period it was being run by Gil Amelio. When Jobs returned as CEO in 1997, the two soon realized they shared a passion for great design.
While Jobs set the vision for his company’s products — beautifully-designed devices that have just the features customers want — it was Ive and his team that did the actual design work. They made Jobs’ visions real.
Going forward, Ive will have to provide his own vision, but he has over a decade of experience of working with Apple’s former CEO to draw on. In addition, Jobs left behind a road-map of upcoming products through 2016. What’s on that road-map is, of course, a closely held secret, but Ive knows, and he has the talent and experience to make it real.
Moving Out of Jobs’ Shadow
Steve Jobs was undoubtedly one of the titans of the computer industry. Some go beyond that and compare him to greats of the past like Thomas Edison. Clearly, the biggest challenge for Tim Cook and Jonathan Ive is moving out of that monumental shadow.
It looks like they have the chops to pull this off. Unlike some short-sighted leaders, Steve Jobs didn’t surround himself with “yes men”. Instead, the people who are taking over Apple in the wake of his passing have every sign of being completely capable of bearing the burdens that has been thrust upon them..