Will Apple Go Downhill? Maybe.

In his early years at Apple, before he was forced out in 1985, Mr. Jobs was notoriously hands-on, meddling with details and berating colleagues. But later, first at Pixar, the computer-animation studio he co-founded, and in his second stint at Apple, he relied more on others, listening more and trusting members of his design and business teams.

In recent years, Mr. Jobs’s role at Apple has been more the corporate equivalent of “an unusually gifted and brilliant orchestra conductor,” said Michael Hawley, a professional pianist and computer scientist who worked for Mr. Jobs and has known him for years. “Steve has done a great job of recruiting a broad and deep talent base.”

…[But] it is by no means certain, analysts say, that things will go that smoothly for Apple.


One of the things pastors say to one another is that if the church falls apart after you leave, you haven’t done your job. I believe this. After all, our only job description according to scripture is to “equip the saints for ministry.” A pastor who is driven by ego or insecurity can set herself up as the savior for the congregation, and when she leaves, the congregation becomes lost.

And yet taking this view too far is not helpful. We bring unique gifts and experiences to the work we do. If, after we depart, our church hums along as if we’d never been there in the first place, does that mean we did a really good job of equipping? Or does it mean that we withheld some of our authentic selves from the people with whom we served?

After I left a previous call, there were programs I initiated that did not continue. I’ve felt guilty about that at times: maybe I didn’t do enough to share the ministry. Such self-reflection is healthy. But it’s also possible that God called me, with a specific set of unique gifts and talents, to make an impact for however long I was there, and that some of those things were dependent on what I uniquely brought to the table. It is not vain to acknowledge this.

Now the leadership looks different, so there are different things happening. Good.

The more I read and understand of leadership, the more I understand that it really is the pastor who sets the course, who risks articulating a vision, and who puts her own creativity and abilities on the line for the sake of what needs to be done. We don’t do it alone, and sometimes we do it badly. Or we don’t do it at all and end up plodding along. But that is our job. And our gifts and talents and personality are inevitably tied up in this. We talk a lot about the “pastoral role” as this thing that exists. And it does. But we are not interchangeable appliances that can be swapped out. (Maybe we should stop calling the service that welcomes us into the congregation “installations”…)

The above article says Jobs matured as a leader and learned how to find good people and call forth their gifts. So the company is likely to be fine. But let’s not pretend that CEO Jobs was simply a midwife for others’ creativity. He was the creative force behind much of Apple’s success.

Nor will it be the same company in his absence. And that’s OK.

If Apple loses some of its mojo, it doesn’t necessarily mean Steve Jobs didn’t do his job. It means that there is nobody quite like Steve Jobs.


12 thoughts on “Will Apple Go Downhill? Maybe.

  1. Jenn Wilson says:

    I really like your take on this and I fully agree with the fact that it is the pastor who “risks setting the vision”. As a non-ordained church professional I have had the joy of succeeding and failing with Pastors who have risked in setting a vision and course for their church. It is a joy when you feel that the church is working on one vision together even if it does fail. When Pastors do not risk this, and do not give some of themselves then yes, sometimes they succeed, they rarely fail and usually as you say just plod along.. To me, stagnating is worse than failing. UGH! I think it is SO IMPORTANT for pastors not to feel vain about the fact that they are unique children of God and will bring something special to each church they serve. I am so glad to hear you advocate this. I feel so frustrated and sad when a pastor will not risk their call for their vision when so often I feel God calls us to a specific place and time because of our vision. The Israelites did get into the promised land without Moses, but I do think it is right and good if he was missed a bit when they got there. Long way of saying.. nice post.

    • MaryAnn says:

      I think this is where our Presbyterian theology and polity can get us into a little trouble. Over the years I really internalized and believe deeply in the ‘priesthood of all believers.’ And I believe that the session is the spiritual leadership of the church, and that the pastor should work collaboratively. But that can be taken too far, to the extent that we never stick our necks out on an initiative simply because ‘the body’ didn’t come up with it through its own volition.

      All of this is on my mind since I preached my first “I have a dream” sermon on Sunday. I got a pretty excited response from folks–not that everyone agreed with me, and I even got some pushback on important ministries I didn’t mention. But there was a sense of relief: while we probably won’t implement all my ‘dreams,’ at least the pastoral leader is doing that dreaming.

  2. Patrick says:

    I love it when someone puts words that identify the mysteries floating unattached in my head. Well done.

  3. Keith Snyder says:

    But collaboration, wise leadership, etc. can’t start an organization or a new way of thinking; they can only maintain and expand it.

    Since innovation resembles starting more than it resembles maintaining, I’m looking for somebody else to be the new Apple over the next decade, as Apple becomes the new Microsoft.

    Speaking as an original Macintosh SE owner…

    • MaryAnn says:

      Just read this comment:

      Because Jobs was a master of control, his vision suffuses the company and its nearly 50,000 employees. They have drunk the Kool-Aid, and few companies have morale as high, employees as driven, or customers as loyal and growing. The mark of a great company is not just a visionary and capable CEO but the degree to which that vision suffuses the entire organization. On that score, you have only to go into an Apple store to know that the person selling you an iPad is as feverish, opinionated, and focused on perfection as Jobs has been. And now, freed from the darker side of Steve Jobs’s need to control everything, those employees may find that the company is even more creative and even more potent.
      source: http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2011/08/apple-after-steve-jobs.html

  4. Rachel Heslin says:

    I really like your differentiation between giving the gift of one’s unique vision and self, and releasing attachment to the results of that gift.

    • Rachel Heslin says:

      Hmm. Somehow the word “exact” disappeared from my initial comment. It was supposed to modify the word “results,” because you *do* want to see positive, preferably lingering results. It’s just that sometimes the specific manifestation of the results may differ from what you envisioned.

  5. Mamala says:

    Really like the quoted text from Sully’s blog. I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve said many times as an Apple fan-girl that besides my addiction to the newest Apply products, I really, really enjoy the [whatever it is] that is present when I wait in those long lines outside the Apple store on Day 1 of launch days. The fellow Apple fan-guys/gals, the Apple employees coming out and passing out water & snacks. The cheers when the first person walks out with the product. Maybe I don’t get out much, but these are some of the best days of my life. No, really!

  6. Mamala says:

    And, call me crazy, but I pray for Apple during these times, and especially Mr. Jobs, as he faces whatever it is that is ahead of him. In my mind, he’s a true icon.

  7. […] My busy, crammed-full life is made more elegant through the use of tools he imagined and helped create. People will be studying his life and career for lessons about leadership and creativity for years to come. Here’s my feeble contribution to that. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s