Late today, the technology industry was rocked by yet another major announcement: Steve Jobs officially stepped down as Apple CEO after a 7 month medical leave of absence. A quick search on the Internet should provide as much coverage as you care to read, but I think many are missing a simple fact. Since January, when Jobs went on medical leave, he wasn’t acting as CEO anyway. So this really doesn’t change anything except make permanent the situation that has existed for 7 months.
It is also important to note that Jobs has been elected Apple’s chairman of the board and director. While this is being reported as fact, it seems that many are also missing the significance of this development. Steve Jobs is still going to exert his influence on Apple. While he may have officially given up CEO duties, his real value to Apple is not lost.
As Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, made famous, there is a crucial difference between leadership and management.
Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.
Leaders provide the vision and set the direction of their organization. Managers carry out the mission that the leaders have defined. Steve Jobs has clearly brought back the vision to Apple that it was lacking in the late 80’s and 90’s. With that vision, Apple has become the largest company in the world and has completely changed the technology industry and the world in general. Luckily for Apple (and perhaps all of us), Steve Jobs’ visionary mind is still around and he will continue to put his mark on the new world of technology he helped kickstart.