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1947 Book Outlines Why Apple Will Decline Without Steve Jobs

by Adriana Lee | May 6, 2012May 6, 2012 3:00 pm PST

In the 1947 book “The Theory of Social and Economic Organization,” author and sociologist Max Weber outlined three categories of organizations:

1) Legal/bureaucratic (such as IBM or the federal government)
2) Traditional (like the Catholic Church)
3) Charismatic (bodies headed by a uniquely talented or “magically” compelling person/people)

It’s the third type that might be the most relevant here. It’s the one that’s George Colony singles out, making the case that Apple is somehow destined to decline now, in this post-Jobs era.

As far as charismatic organizations go, these tend to be spearheaded by leaders who are “set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities.” As a result, these charismatic chiefs wind up inspiring die-hard loyalty and trust in their followers.

It might be a stretch to call Steve Jobs superhuman, but his taste in design and knack for identifying trendworthy technologies were certainly exceptional, as was his knack for creating a buzz. In fact, these attributes inspired such fierce brand loyalty that it spawned that curious modern creature called the Apple fanboy. Inside the company, loyalty was expected, demanded and constantly underscored by Jobs’ infamous need for control. Inside Apple author Adam Lashinky noted that Apple staffers were not entrepreneurs, nor were they prompted to be. This is not a community of leaders prompted to take ownership of their various areas. They are followers that orbit and connect to the one leader at the center: Jobs.

From the book "Inside Apple"

In such situations, succession becomes a difficult proposition. And while the company has a very smart, talented executive in Tim Cook, he was born from the legal/bureaucratic mold, which doesn’t make him a very good fit.

For a company that thrives off charisma, it is absolutely necessary to bring in someone charismatic to fill those shoes, continues Colony. Until they do, he says, Apple is destined for a descent.

How do you feel Tim Cook is doing so far? Do you agree with this assessment? If so, who would you love to see step into the role? Jony Ive? Scott Forstall? Other?


Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...