He’s finally back in business (thank God for that!). Fortune magazine has named him ‘CEO of the Decade’ this month. He is the perfect choice and there can be no one better, for this man has single handedly redefined mobile communication (with the iPhone), made the geeky PC hip-n-happening (with the Mac- Book) and brought back Apple from the brink. Steve Jobs is a man whose products inspire a religious devotion in users – and he is worshipped by many around the world. But this is where the problem lies. Early this year when Steve Jobs took a leave of absence from his company to get a liver transplant, Apple’s stock slid to an all time low. It’s said that when Jobs sneezes, Apple catches a cold. If a company is all about a great personality and a not a great product there’s going to be a big problem of survival

Till recently, Apple was synonymous with Jobs. Not so much now and thankfully so. Without Jobs at the helm, Apple surprised Wall Street with its Q2 profits which showed the world that – yes Steve had shown the way, but the company was in safe hands without him too (under Tim Cook). Steve was back in September and got a standing ovation from the audience, not so much for the new iTunes software and new line of iPod Nano music player with video cameras, but for being the greatest icon of corporate world. Yes, the wizard is positively back but has ensured that Apple is definitely not just about its founder’s charisma, but about computers and others things – in which they are the best. Tim Cook seems to be the right choice for successor and Apple is apparently in safe hands.

When the man at the helm of affairs is a living legend and one of the richest persons in the world, finding the right successor gets a bit difficult. However, when you are a smart investor like Warren Buffett, you don’t just have one but four potential successors to choose from. For more than four decades, the man has been nurturing his firm Berkshire Hathaway, making it America’s sixth-largest company by market value. Choosing the next Buffett is as important for Berkshire as it is for America. Buffett at 77 is aware that the one question hanging on everyone’s mind is – who’s next? He knows and understands the sentiments and jokes that he has built Berkshire so that it could be run by a cardboard cutout or the bust of Benjamin Franklin. When a company is performing well, who its successor is going to be, becomes all the more important. And with Warren’s good planning, everyone’s optimistic that whoever the successor – Ajit Jain, David Skoll, Joseph Brandon or Tony Nicely – America’s most famous investor, the so-called Oracle of Omaha, will find the right guy as his successor.

When Jack Welch became General Electric’s CEO in 1981, the company was worth $14 billion and when he retired 20 year later, GE’s value had touched $500 billion. This was fabulous, but true success lies in the ultimate test: once the leader is gone, does the company continue to flourish? The most important job a CEO does is not just keep the balance sheets looking good, but finding the next man who can take the company forward. Jack Welch says, the most important business decision he took was selecting his successor. At GE, CEOs have the ‘airplane’ question that help them identify the next man. Imagine you are flying in one of the company planes and the plane crashes. Who would be the next chairman of GE? This simple question helped GE identify Jeff Immelt as successor for its top job. As Jim Collins discovered while writing his book ‘Good to Great’ – it’s getting the right people in the right job which is more important than strategy. Getting the right person for the most important post in the organization (that of the CEO) seems to be a leader’s most important task.     Read More....

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