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.