I would put Steve Jobs on my risk list.

Regular commentary suggests that for Apple, the company successes and failures can be linked not only to their great products, but also to one man – Steve Jobs. When the product is doing well, or showing signs of weakness, Apple share performance fluctuates and seemingly mirrors consumer and expert opinion. When the man himself is rumored to be less healthy, shares take a dive – usually prompted by a global rumour mill.

Hang on. This isn’t great risk management, is it? This month (February 2011), Steve Jobs has (allegedly) been taking a break – not for the first time. Maybe I’ve missed something, but things seem to be unfolding just as they have on past occasions. Mr Jobs takes a break. Apple supporters, critics and consumers exhibit signs of mild panic, as though without Mr Jobs, Apple will cease to exist in the same form.

With so much emphasis upon one man to communicate the Apple vision, what may happen when some day Jobs really doesn’t return to the helm? Surely Apple aren’t reliant upon Steve Jobs, are they?

I recall conversations centred on one person (me, at the time) and the risks that may result from an individual (or perhaps a few people) being overly relied upon by the organisation. So much so, that the ability of the organisation to function in exceptional circumstances may be compromised were that individual not present. Letting go is one of the most challenging aspects of developing any role, but it is essential to addressing a risk like this. Letting go is something I have not always found easy. I’m pleased to say that I am no longer on a risk list, and it’s a liberating feeling knowing that I’m not in this position any longer. Even better is knowing that others have benefitted tremendously from this, with extended roles, responsibilities and satisfaction from their work.

Maybe Jobs should start letting go; look for the future leaders of the Apple brand and of the Apple identity.

For the record, I’m not an expert on business performance, risk management or Apple. It’s just my view.

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