When Steve Jobs announced another medical leave of absence from Apple—his third since 2004—business and technology commentators again raised the issue of who would succeed the visionary CEO. The company has held its succession plans close to its chest on the matter. Investors have criticized Apple’s lack of forthrightness, and for good reason. Most companies should have a CEO succession plan in place, but a recent survey suggests more than half do not. “Senior management’s job is to be thinking constantly about succession planning,” said Harry Kraemer, former CEO of Baxter International and a clinical professor of management and strategy.
“You don’t wait for an incident to happen. You prepare for it the day you get into the job,” Kraemer said of being a responsible CEO. “When I first became the CEO of Baxter, the first thing the board wanted to know was, ‘What if you get hit by the proverbial beer truck? What are we going to do?’ ”
Tim Cook, Apple’s COO, has taken over day-to-day operations of the company and is presumed by many to be the heir-apparent. Still, Cook will have some remarkably large shoes to fill if he gets the nod. “Jobs is a creative genius in figuring out where the future is going and what people are going to want,” Kraemer said. Jobs’ greatest strength “is his ability to think through what people are going to want and then marshal people smarter than himself to get it done.”
“But the issue of succession?” Kraemer said of Jobs. “That’s his job. One thing you don’t want to do as a leader is make yourself irreplaceable.”
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