Experts: Apple needs to provide greater clarity about Jobs’ health situation and succession plan

Apple Online Store“News that Jobs will take a leave of absence because of health problems and turn day-to-day operations to Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook has renewed concerns that the company and its board haven’t been forthcoming enough about plans for Jobs’ permanent replacement,” Spencer E. Ante and Jena McGregor report for BusinessWeek.

“Not every company needs to go public with its planning, governance experts point out. But greater clarity may be essential in the case of Apple, a company whose image is so intricately tethered to a charismatic CEO who was sidelined in 2004 after treatment for a rare form of pancreatic cancer,” Ante and Jena McGregor report. “Concerns over his health were heightened in recent months as Jobs appeared visibly emaciated during public presentations.”

“Until recently, Jobs and Apple considered the chief executive’s health a private matter. As long as Jobs was able to carry out his duties as CEO, Apple didn’t feel compelled to say much, if anything, about his condition. That has changed dramatically now that he’s taking a leave, experts say,” Ante and Jena McGregor report. “An early step to greater disclosure, says Yale School of Management senior associate dean Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld, is to get a medical expert to publicly explain the facts around Jobs’ health. CEOs ‘do not have the luxury of privacy when it comes to their health,’ Minow contends. ‘Their shelf life is of crucial concern to the board and to the enterprise.'”

Ante and Jena McGregor report, “Beyond reassuring the public over Jobs’ health, Apple and its board must also ensure that Jobs does his best to transfer to Cook the goodwill he has amassed with investors and the rest of the public, says Dave Ulrich, a human resources expert and professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. ‘In a logical CEO succession, Steve Jobs would have gone out with him, let Tim begin to do the speaking, and then that ‘relationship equity’ is transferred,’ says Ulrich. ‘In this case, it looks like that is going to be difficult.'”

Ante and Jena McGregor report, “Ultimately, some leaders are so irreplaceable that no amount of succession planning will ensure a seamless power transition. ‘In some sense, with the charismatic person, it’s difficult to prepare a successor, because they are bigger than life,’ says John Larrere, general manager at the management consultant Hay Group. ‘The next person isn’t going to be bigger than life to start with.'”

Full article here.

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