Has Apple truly lost its way with Tim Cook at the helm?
A former Microsoft executive has made this claim. Writing a guest piece for Forbes, former Chief Operating Officer Bob Herbold at Microsoft -- from 1994 to 2001 -- believes that the iPad and iPhone maker simply hasn't been the same since the former CEO was in control.
Herbold argues that while Apple stock continues to lose its glitter in the eyes of investors, data and numbers only tell us half the story. Stock prices, he argues, are not based solely on product line success or the balance sheet, but also relate to the perceived future of a company -- and in order to keep shareholders interested, the belief that a firm has innovative and visionary leadership is a crucial component.
While the late Steve Jobs is called the "ultimate visionary leader," Tim Cook, who replaced Jobs after the co-founder passed away in 2011, is implied to be nothing more than an office body. Although Cook is not mentioned by name, Herbold claims that Apple requires "a visionary leader, not an administrator."
"The leader needs to be paranoid about making the core offerings of the organization more exciting and more impactful with its customers," Herbold writes. "That sounds simple, but doing it with clarity and speed is absolutely necessary. You must avoid any kind of bureaucracy that can water down the impact of your efforts or slow it to a snail's pace."
In addition, Herbold says that in order to be the type of "visionary" leader modern-day businesses require, the CEO doesn't have to be a technology genius, but does have to have a high business acumen. Powerful, long-reaching business strategies are necessary, and deep, personal involvement with the details of your corporation is a must.
Comparing former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner and Steve Jobs, the former Microsoft exec says that the time spent getting to know your customers, their opinions and their needs, can improve the success of your products. Gerstner spent three months simply talking to customers about their information-technology challenges and based IBM's strategy on this, whereas Jobs personally led the design and development of Apple's consumer products -- and perhaps Cook has fallen short of this expectation.
As a parting shot, Herbold says that business managers must have "the guts to lead" to keep a firm competitive. It isn't about having charisma, but being strong-willed and knowing what you want to accomplish in the long-run.
The former Microsoft executive finishes by commenting:
"Apple could surprise us in the next six to nine months by emerging with yet another big new idea. On the other hand, I think the stock market is telling us that the public is beginning to believe that Apple really doesn't have strong visionary leadership. Apple will be a solid technology company but the Apple era may be on its way out."