The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

Leadership by the book

This piece originally appeared in Reuters Magazine

Every year publishers release dozens, if not hundreds, of books about leadership. These books range from how-to books written by tenured professors of management theory at Harvard Business School to inspirational tracts generated by motivational speakers and longtime high school football coaches. While it’s evident that an eager audience exists for leadership books, how useful could they actually be? After all, if it were possible to become an effective leader simply by reading a stack of books, then presumably there would be a lot more good leaders in the world.

Assuming it’s possible to learn leadership lessons from a book, it seems even more likely that one could glean authoritative wisdom from reading biographies of great leaders, people who were not only influential but who actually succeeded in changing the world. Biographies, moreover, have the advantage of being real stories and, unlike leadership self-help books, are often composed by excellent writers. They appeal to a much broader class of reader, including the kind of people who might once have read epic poems or romances, tales of gods and heroes and their mysterious ways. If it’s true that biographies of great leaders constitute a higher form of leadership literature, several questions remain: How do the biographers deal with the subject? Do they take lessons from leadership books or leadership theory? And do they agree—as many of the how-to books maintain—that leadership lessons can be distilled and presented independently of the leaders themselves, and transferred from one field of accomplishment to another? Seeking instruction, I turned to three distinguished biographers for guidance. Here are a few lessons I learned about leadership lessons.

Biography isn’t self-help. Almost no professional biographers set out to portray their subjects in a didactic manner; they are attracted to the complexity of depicting a leader in his or her natural habitat. “I don’t directly try to turn my biographies into how-to books,” insists Walter Isaacson, author of several biographies, including last year’s blockbuster Steve Jobs. On a leadership scale from 1 to 10, Isaacson says Jobs should be given a 10 as perhaps the most inspiring technology leader of all time, adding, “But I’d take away two points for being so abrasive.” And that’s the point: biographical subjects “are real people who have strengths and flaws,” says Isaacson. “Those of us who write biographies of leaders understand that it’s a much richer topic than can be synopsized into a few bullet points.”

Leadership is nature plus nurture, but mostly the right kind of nurture. Leadership skills must come from somewhere, and few modern authors would argue that they are genetically inherited. So biographers often look to early, character-shaping experiences. Nicholas Wapshott, author of two books on Margaret Thatcher, points to her upbringing as a shopkeeper’s daughter in a one-party Lincolnshire town as forging a combative outsider’s personality that she would later need as she launched her attack on the entire British establishment. “She was brought up a bit like a boy,” Wapshott says, “knew she had to do well, and always believed she was right.”

from The Great Debate:

Jobs made Apple great by ignoring profit

By Clayton Christensen and James Allworth
The opinions expressed are their own.

Steve Jobs retires as the CEO of Apple with a reputation that will place him amongst the pantheon of history's great global business leaders. Many people have written about what makes Jobs and Apple special, but I think they’re missing what truly set him apart. Jobs has succeeded by eschewing the one thing that most people view as the raison d'être for companies -- profit.

When I left the industry to come to academia 22 years ago, it was driven by a set of questions that had troubled me for some time. Why was it that the best run companies in the world -- companies that have had incredibly smart leaders, following carefully detailed plans and with tremendous execution ability -- reliably seem to come unstuck? The answer to this question is what has become known as the theory of disruption.

from Breakingviews:

Apple needs more formal delegation of Jobs’ power

By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

NEW YORK -- Apple needs a more formal delegation of Steve Jobs' power. The tech giant's chief executive is handing day-to-day control to chief operating officer Tim Cook due to health issues. Yet he retains his CEO title. This is the third such move, and this time the handover is indefinite. However painful, a more formal transfer to an acting CEO would have been better.

from MediaFile:

No-nonsense, and no names, at Apple iPad event

Apple has a reputation for developing hit products.

But the company also has a rep for maintaining an iron grip on its image and its message. Wednesday’s launch of the iPad, a product whose details have been closely guarded by Apple for months ahead of the launch, showed Apple’s operation at its best.

To the surprise of many, Apple CEO Steve Jobs turned up at the demo room after the main event and appeared to be casually hobnobbing with Wall Street Journal tech columnist Walt Mossberg.

from Breakingviews:

Apple’s iSlate overflows with expectations

What’s the iSlate worth? It’s not an easy question to answer, as Apple isn’t even confirming it’s got a tablet computer gadget in the works. But the market gives a rough guide to what Wall Street expects from the new device. Investors seem to be slapping an “iSlate premium” of some $25 billion on Apple’s value. Though Apple boss Steve Jobs’ skill at launching new products is unparalleled, meeting these hopes will be a tall order.

Since July, Apple’s market cap has jumped by $64 billion to $193 billion. The bulls have been stampeding over that time, but the tech company’s performance has been more than double that of the broader market. On that basis, Apple has added some $35 billion more value than it would have if it had paced the market.

New iPhone small step towards global domination

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tom_dunmore-Tom Dunmore is editor-in-chief of Stuff magazine. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Yesterday, Apple unveiled the latest version of its wildly popular iPhone. And it was quite a show, despite the absence of Apple’s usual ringmaster Steve Jobs.

from The Great Debate:

Are a CEO’s health problems a private matter?

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dr-jgsm-05-- Dana Radcliffe is a Day Family senior lecturer of business ethics at the Johnson School at Cornell University. The views expressed are his own. --

Are a CEO’s health problems a private matter? Or does he or she have an obligation to disclose them to investors and other stakeholders?

from The Great Debate:

What Apple loses without Steve

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steve_jobs


-- Eric Auchard is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

"There's probably no God" runs the slogan of an advertising campaign humanists are running on buses across Britain. But if the supreme being has his doubters, few question the importance of Steve Jobs to Apple Inc.

In a letter to employees on Wednesday, the Apple co-founder said he would take himself "out of the limelight" for six months after learning in the past week that his still vaguely defined "health issues" are "more complex than I originally thought."

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