Having just watched Apple (AAPL)'s latest Worldwide Developer Conference, it struck me how clearly the days of Steve Jobs-type presentations are over. Jobs was an iconic figure and many have been hoping that someone would emerge to replace this visionary. That won't be the case. Tim Cook isn't Steve Jobs and he knows it. Get used to it!
But here's the thing critics are missing: Great companies are rooted in great teams. Is it possible that Jobs' real legacy is having constructed a culture and training system that helps create the next generation of leadership at Apple? That certainly is the focus of Apple's secretive annual Top 100 meeting - to identify the stars of the future and allow them to shine.
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Despite the absence of Jobs, there is still a wealth of talent at Apple. It struck me watching this latest event that perhaps Cook's perspective on how to run Apple going forward is to operate the business the way Warren Buffett operates Berkshire Hathaway: Delegate to others and hold them accountable. Trust others that they have valid visions and let them contribute to the overall corporate goals of Apple. A team approach; less focus on one person.
Part of Buffett's genius has been recognizing that he employed a talented group of individuals running divisions within Berkshire Hathaway. You really don't hear him speaking about insurance strategy or energy philosophy in any significant way and I'm quite sure that's by design. Mr. Buffett recognizes that there are others best suited to run the specific areas they are responsible for.
Perhaps that is Cook's philosophy as well. He realizes there will never be another Steve Jobs; instead, he's adopted a philosophy of letting internal visionary leaders move Apple forward. Leading through delegation, while focusing on broad initiatives. At the Worldwide Developers Conference, notice how little Tim Cook is on stage. He does brief introductions for those doing the presentation - those who are quite likely the new stars at Apple. Quite a different approach than Steve Jobs. (Click here to watch the Worldwide Developers Conference.)
Sure, it was a lot more fun to watch a rock star like Steve Jobs. But I don't see anything wrong with having a band of brilliant professionals that operate their business units with vision and drive. It's worked for Warren Buffett; it may very well work for Apple, too.
Commentary by Michael A. Yoshikami, the CEO and founder of Destination Wealth Management in Walnut Creek, California. He is also a CNBC contributor.
- Information Technology
- Warren Buffett
- Tim Cook