by Steve Tappin –
For me this raises three fundamental questions:
- Can she really make an impact?
- What does this mean for CEO Tim Cook and can they work successfully together?
- What does this mean for the future of Apple?
From my work as a CEO confidant and author of ‘The Secrets of CEOs’, I have met with thousands of different business leaders. I realized that there was not one way of being a CEO but seven different types in the Western world. Each typically has different motives, strengths and challenges.
Steve Jobs was a corporate entrepreneur. He was driven by the obsession and love that he had for his products, and his personal mission to put a dent in the universe. He achieved this through relentless determination, and the support of his trusted lieutenants.
Angela Ahrendts and Tim Cook are both very different characters from both Steve Jobs and each other, and have different CEO types. It is important to understand these types and that Angela and Tim will have different ways of working:
Tim came from a logistics background and is a professional manager operator:
Angela is a combination of two types of CEO, which we typically don’t see in one individual leader:
Angela is unique in drawing on her strengths to put both customers and people at the heart of a business. At Burberry she was able to create value on a global basis, by focusing the Burberry brand in on the millennials and creating a connected culture that also joined employees together.
In addition to her CEO type, she has a reputation for being an outstanding personal leader with strong values and beliefs. She is global in outlook and able to blend well with different cultures. Her experience of harnessing beauty and style from the fashion industry could be invaluable.
In some ways Angela and Tim can complement each other. She is likely to bring a fresh customer, brand and leadership focus to Apple, assuming they can work well together. An obvious tension is that she is clearly a potential CEO succession candidate and is likely to have strong views that will challenge traditional Apple conventions. So it will be critical for them to build trust – which is a strength of hers – and for Tim to work with her to harness her contribution rather than exert his authority.
How Could They Best Work Together?
They have the potential to build a close partnership. However the technological breakthroughs and new product categories that Apple fans crave are not likely to be their particular strength. They’ll need to rely on harnessing the guardians of innovation, especially Jony Ive, to invent the pioneering products and technology thatTim can mass-produce and Angela can market.
The key will be to create a close-knit fellowship where each of them can harness their strengths. This will give them the best chance of adding value together as they find the key to positioning Apple within a global multi-channel customer world.
What Could Be The Future For Apple?
I can see three scenarios for Apple.
Dream Scenario: Apple 3.0
“Apple 2.0” saw the return of Steve Jobs and the amazing home run of the iPod, iPhone & iPad. It became the most valuable company in the world because it created breakthrough innovative products which were simply and beautifully designed, operating within connected ecosystems that positively impacted many of our lives. Apple also created flagship cool retail environments where we could get a physical taste of the Apple experience.
In Apple 3.0, Tim, Angela and Jony work in fellowship and rediscover the old Apple cool and excitement. They find breakthroughs in products and services, with new categories such as TVs and watches, and again dream up things we never even knew we needed… not just cheap plastic color iPhones. Together they innovate the next generation of cool customer experiences, with Angela helping to bridge the digital and technological world with the latest real-world developments in music and fashion. As the Apple brand evolves, it finds a way to be both aspirational and accessible in the emerging markets. Apple goes on to be the outstanding company of the next decade and create the most value by far again.
Second Scenario: Apple The Customer Experience Company
Steve Jobs’s “reality distortion field” fades and Apple stops being the product-breakthrough company that its diehard fans fell in love with. Instead, we see decent products and services, that are then beautifully packaged and styled and integrated into great customer experiences.
A bit like a Virgin, the company takes a solid product offering that is the same or slightly better than the competition, and then adds sizzle.
In this situation, Angela is best placed to be the CEO who makes this future real. Maybe most of the value of the company is sustained. However, in the long-term, the risk is that Apple fans see this aas too much style and not enough substance.
Third Scenario: Apple Becomes Just Another Company
Not my preference but we see slippage and erosion of the brand. Management isn’t able to work together and there are boardroom battles and churn at the top. The leadership team is never able to recapture or reinvent the Jobs gene and magic. Apple gradually gets incremental while Samsung, Google, Tencent et al gradually overtake them.
People are so emotionally attached to Apple that nothing but the dream scenario will do for most investors and fans of the company. However, the arrival of Angela Ahrendts increases the chances of that dream scenario Apple 3.0 happening, as well as other valuable futures for Apple too.
Steve Jobs is a tough act to follow for any CEO, and Tim and Angela have their work cut out. However, I believe that this appointment is one of Tim Cook’s best decisions so far, and definitely increases the chances of success.
Good luck Angela.