Today I came across a fascinating talk by Keith Yamashita on what great visionary leaders and CEO's have in common, how they use their power to envision what does not yet exist, and how they create the culture for their organisations to succeed and endure. Keih worked along side some of the most prominent leaders in the Valley; during the early days at NeXT with Steve Jobs helping to materialize Steve's ideas and Vision, and later alongside Mark Zuckeberg on Facebook.
It was so interesting to get the perspective of someone that was there as these leaders were making critical decisions that would affect the outcome of an entire industry. Keith has this special demeanor that makes it possible for him to connect with an audience at a personal level making his talk so captivating.
The process leaders use to set-up an organization to deliver a vision always captivated me. I like the idea that the Culture of a company sets the tone from which everything else emerges, creating this self-sustained organism that outlasts its creator. Keith made this brilliant analogy between a melody created by Tchaikovsky - The Nutcracker Suite first premièred in 1892, and its later reinterpretation by Duke Ellington in 1960. While the composition technically is different, there is a consistency to the tone of the melody that resonates the same tone as the original composition. "A Strong Character and well-defined essence can remain true even if their expressions change over time" Keith Yamashita
All of this reminded me of a this really great talk that I listened to about what it means to build a long lasting company, and how setting the right cultural tone can make a huge difference further down the line. Recently I have had the pleasure of seeing this first hand in the organization I work for, the impact of having inspiring leadership in place is remarkable.
It is curious to me that Apple is often given as an example of a company with a very strong culture, however it does seem very much like the company's culture is still reliant on Steve Job's charisma and has not yet been able to move forward despite Tim Cook's efforts. One of the traits of long lasting companies is that the culture that was set by the founders tends to act as an independent organism that sets the environment for the organization to thrive.
I am not entirely sure this is the case for Apple, the fact that Steve Jobs felt the need to leave a product development plan for the next generation of products lead by a leader that he meticulously chose is not very comforting. In an organization with a strong prevalent culture, the organism should be able to take care of itself.