Much of has been written recently about the indelible impression that Steve Jobs has made on the world of technology and design and the impact that Apple has had across the Globe. Jobs is known for his personality, style, and stewardship of Apple brand. One of his most legendary characteristics was his attention to detail. In fact, Job has his name on an astonishing 313 patents, a giant number compared to other industry leaders, such as Bill Gates who has 9. These patents covered details like the look of a stair case in an Apple store or the clasp that holds Apple ear phone buds together. This kind of attention to detail and design, as well as his ability to think about what customers want and need before they know it, was the driving force behind the Apple brand.
However, how will Jobs be remembered 50 or 100 years from now? With the fast pace of technology, today’s iPhones and iPads will become relics as new innovators stand on the shoulders of Jobs and those who came before him. Ultimately, we all know very few individuals are remembered today as they were at the time of their greatest accomplishments. So how will Jobs be remembered? Will it be his attention to detail or well known competitive streak?
We all know organizations that run out to astonishing accomplishments, only to melt away when the leaders departs. While all companies are susceptible to a ‘leadership vacuum’, the truly great companies are those that are led by people who allow others to lead and develop talent from within. Ultimately, Jobs’ greatest achievement will be how Apple responds to his departure and that it remains an enduring company and brand where the best parts of his personality and creativity become ingrained in the Apple culture, no matter who the leader is.
While many are fearful of Apple without Jobs, the future looks extremely bright from a talent standpoint. Jobs has certainly assembled an incredible stable of talented people and individuals attached to Apple’s brand and mission. However, Jobs has also allowed some of these individuals to step out of his shadow and represent the Apple brand in different forms. Tim Cook (the new CEO and supply chain guru) has had a lot of time to make his own indelible impression on the organization, and is credited for a lot of Apple’s financial and supply chain/logistics success. Similarly, design mavens such as Jonathan Ive have worked for years with Jobs, honing their skills and ability to turn out consumer focused and inspired products, time and again.
Ultimately, Jobs will not be remembered for his patents, or his personality or clothes, but rather for creating a meaningful brand and organization that can be self-sustaining even after his departure.