Ourview | Captain courageous

Ourview | Captain courageous

In a typically measured, efficient letter—no doubt typed out on one of his measured, efficient devices— Steve Jobs informed his employees, board of directors and a shocked world at large that he has finally stepped down from the chief executive position at Apple Inc.

“I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know." Jobs said in his letter. “Unfortunately, that day has come."

In that resignation, there was none of the signature pizazz, hyperbole and turn of phrase that has made Jobs arguably the most important chief executive of a company in the last decade. Jobs’ vision has changed the way individuals, families, entrepreneurs and corporations live, communicate and operate.

As soon as the letter was released to the media, Apple’s stock plunged. Without Jobs, the markets seemed to say, there is substantially less to Apple.

Jobs’ career at Apple, especially his second tenure since 1997, when he returned to the company after an ignominious exit, is in violation of almost every tenet of business management and leadership.

Most management theorists will tell you that leaders must avoid micromanaging and instead develop a competent team to which they delegate.

Jobs has put together a formidable team of engineers, designers and retails. But insiders have often said, Jobs is a formidable authoritarian who simply will not delegate. Jobs is known to be intimately involved in everything from the font on the Apple website, the box your iPhone comes in, to the clever battery chargers that Apple bundles with computers. (One of the few courses Jobs ever sat through in college was on calligraphy.)

It is also perhaps taboo in management theory circles for CEOs to personally vest their credibility behind products. What if something goes wrong?

Every major announcement by Apple in the last decade has been delivered, nay performed, by Jobs through slick presentations with millions of fanboys gaping on. Things do go wrong. And Jobs is not averse to the occasional subterfuge. But Apple has developed a reputation for never responding to a crisis prematurely or inadequately.

Over the years, consumers have come to realize that the greatest arbiter of quality in an Apple product is none other than the CEO himself. If Jobs likes it and is prepared to flaunt it on a stage, chances are that the device will impress.

Jobs’ departure does not mean that Apple will go back to the dark ages of the early 1990s. No doubt he leaves behind a robust pipeline of ideas and products. But can it cope without that unique, brutal yet beautiful mind?

Will Apple thrive without Jobs? Tell us at views@livemint.co