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Yash Gupta
Business School Dean

Yash Gupta

Yash Gupta is Professor and Dean of The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

Jobs Acted Properly

Transparency for its own sake is not a desired goal. A good leader has to weigh all the elements when faced with the choice of divulging personal information or playing his cards close to the vest.

In the case of Steve Jobs and his medical problems, greater transparency could have had an extremely negative impact. If he had given a more detailed description of his problems, it probably would have had little effect on him personally, but it might well have had a damaging effect on many others - on his employees, his investors, consumers, suppliers, retailers, and so on. That would hardly constitute wise leadership on the part of a CEO, especially when the economy is so unsettled. In addition, Apple's day-to-day operations during his medical leave have been handled well by the chief operating officer, Timothy Cook. Why make a somber medical announcement and risk upsetting the apple cart, so to speak?

You also have to bear in mind that Steve Jobs is not your average CEO. As one of Apple's co-founders, he is closely linked to the company. It's widely known that his personal stamp is on every product that comes out of Apple. The company struggled after he resigned in the 1980s, but it has thrived since his return 12 years ago. All these factors make his presence at Apple even more crucial in the eyes of many people. So I think he acted properly by disclosing as much as he did and holding back some of the details that only would have produced a lot of anxiety.

Admittedly, there is a hazard when one man is so closely tied to the identity of the company. General Electric had a similar situation when Jack Welch was the CEO and chairman for 20 years. But it's important to note that GE is an industry behemoth with a history dating back to the late 1800s; one of its founders was Thomas Edison. As much as Welch helped the company during his tenure, GE had a long-established identity that was much bigger than any individual. This is less the case with Apple and Steve Jobs, so any apprehension created by his health problems could have a significantly detrimental effect on his company. You can't fault Jobs for being circumspect.

By Yash Gupta

 |  June 23, 2009; 1:46 PM ET
Category:  CEOs Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: A Stick in the Eye | Next: Transparency Is Overrated

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