Steve Jobs: Recent Appearance Raises the Question of Legacy Planning

Sure the Apple community was thrilled yesterday when the man who runs what is arguably the most highly valued tech company in the world, took to the stage to launch its latest product amidst stepping down just a little over a month ago due to health problems. Was Steve Jobs presence out of pure passion for what he started or to alleviate investor concerns that Apple can survive and thrive in his absence? How does a company stay on course when such iconic leaders step down? Legacy planning has become a timely topic. With high-profile CEOs, we often think of them as icons and lose sight of them as human beings with identifiable qualities and a tangible vision that can be nurtured and sustained throughout the rest of the company. The best legacy plan is one that understands a leader’s greatness in terms of very specific attributes and behaviors and can promote them in others. Consider this as you look at whether or not your organization has a legacy plan in place:

  • What do the signs tell you? Organizations with high turnover rates or ones that don’t clearly communicate their missions and values are at risk for employees not believing there is such a legacy plan. Employees that don’t see initiative and innovation in the company’s leaders are left to wonder what the future holds for the organization, and for them.

  • Is creativity alive and well? It is untrue that some are born creative and others are not.  Creativity is a behavior, not a static quality. It can and should be cultivated and encouraged just like any other behavior.

  • Are you truly capturing the discretionary effort of you employees? It’s as simple as making sure positive reinforcement is the primary driver of the organizational culture. People can be reinforced in a way that allows them to become the best and brightest. Create a culture where managers are rewarded for how well they develop – not just hire - smart, talented people.

Legacy planning can be one of the most important plans an organization has in place.  Whether you are at the top of the organization or not, there are ways to contribute to building your company’s legacy. It starts and ends with how we manage behavior. 


Posted by Aubrey Daniels, Ph.D.

Aubrey is a thought leader and expert on management, leadership, safety and workplace issues. For the past 40 years, he has been dedicated to helping people and organizations apply the laws of human behavior to optimize performance.