$150billion. That's a lot of money. And that's how much shareholder value has increased at Apple since Steve Jobs returned as CEO. Can you think of any other CEO that has aided shareholder wealth so much? Do any of the cost cutting CEOs in manufacturing companies, financial services firms, or media companies see their share prices rising like Apple's?
Fortune has declared this "The Decade of Steve" in its latest publication at Money.CNN.com. Such over-the-top statements are by nature intended to sell magazines (or draw page hits). But the writer makes the valid point that very few leaders impact their industry like Apple has the computer industry, under Jobs leadership (but not under other leaders.) Yet, under his leadership Apple has also had a dramatic impact on the restructuring of two other industries – music and mobile phones/computing. And a company Mr. Jobs founded, Pixar, had a major impact on restructuring the movie business (Pixar was sold to Disney, and has played a significant role in the value increase of that company.) So with Mr. Jobs as leader, no less than 4 industries have been dramatically changed – and huge value created for shareholders.
No cost-cutting CEO, no "focus on the core" CEO, no "execution" CEO can claim to have made the kind of industry changes that have occurred through businesses led by Steve Jobs. And none of those CEO profiles can say they have created the shareholder value Mr. Jobs has created. Not even Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer can claim to have added any value this decade – as Microsoft's value is now less than it was when the millenia turned. Despite the relative size difference between the market for PCs and Macs (about 10 to 1) today Apple has more cash and marketable securities than the entire value of the historically supply-chain driven Dell Corporation.
Mr. Jobs is constantly pushing his organization to focus on the future, about what the markets will want, rather than the past and what the company has made. It was a decade ago that Apple created its "digital lifestyle" scenario of the future, which opened Apple's organization to being much more than Macs. Jobs obsesses about competitors and forces his employees to do the same, to make sure Apple doesn't grow complacent he pushes all products to have leading edge components. Mr. Jobs embraces Disruption, doesn't fear seeing it in his company, doesn't mind it amongst his people, and works to create it in his markets. And he makes sure Apple constantly keeps White Space projects open and working to see what works with customers – testing and trying new things all the time in the marketplace.
Following these practices, Apple pulled itself away from the Whirlpool and returned to the Rapids of Growth. Almost bankrupt, it wasn't financial re-engineering that saved Apple it was launching new products that met emerging needs. Apple showed any company can turn itself around if it follows the right steps.
As companies are struggling with value, people should look to Apple (and Google). Value is not created by cost cutting and waiting for the recession to end. Value is created by seeking innovations and creating an organization that can implement them. Especially Disruptive ones. Whether he's the CEO of the decade or not I can't answer. But saying he's one heck of a good role model for what leaders should be doing to create value in their companies is undoubtfully true.