Steven Jobs is perhaps the best CEO of the last hundred years. This may reflect my ignorance of other CEOs – which is bordering on the comprehensive – but my reasoning goes like this this: In identifying extraordinary talent, one has to guard against luck. How do we decide between luck and extraordinary talent? Run the experiment again. I don’t know of too many executives who, in addition to having about five huge wins running a corporation – in this case Apple II, Mac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad (not to mention Pixar) – (and OK that’s not five things but no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition). And he got himself ousted in the middle of this performance his successful comeback providing the best possible test of whether his earlier successes were just luck.
In any event I often wonder how Steve would go in a CEO review. After all, he’d be ranked on all sorts of metrics, the weight of each metric would probably be fixed in advance so his skills of leadership and vision (surely where he excels) would be rated 10/10 if there’s any sense to the world, but there would be other criteria. Like “makes all staff feel involved and valued and provides them with confidence in the transparency and integrity of the organisation”. Criteria like “has a transparent, open and constructive relationship with the board”. Now I expect that Steve would do badly on the first of these and who knows about the second. So if, together they account for say 30% of his score, he wouldn’t do particularly well.
In fact an organisation is an organic entity and what one really wants is people at senior levels who are very good at certain things and some effective division of labour – so there’s an effective spread of talents and expertise and people play to their strengths and cover others’ weakness.
I wonder if anyone can point me to literature which explores the fallacy of composition I’ve implied is going on above and what might be done about it in determining criteria and the weighting between criteria that should apply when deliberating on important decisions.