A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to meet and listen to several very interesting people who came to visit Israel as part of Saul Klein’s “Data, Narrative and Culture” meetup series.
Among them were Allison Johnson, who was the VP of Marketing for Apple, and Chris Riley who was creative director in Allison’s team at Apple.
It was one of the most fascinating presentations I attended in my life, as it included first-hand stories from the people who launched the iPhone and iPad to the world. There were many insights shared by Allison and Chris, but there’s one that stuck with me and won’t let go.
Allison said that in the top areas within Apple, there were no politics. Which sounded strange, even artificial. But then she proceeded. She said that company politics are based on people’s aspiration to advance themselves in the organization and replace others. But at Apple, no one could imagine replacing Johnny Ive. Or replacing Scott Fortsall. Or replacing her.
And that struck me. A truly “top” person is someone who no one can imagine replacing. If you’re an entrepreneur or run a company, you can probably look around you at each of your peers and ask yourself this question. “Can anyone in my company imagine himself replacing that guy/gal?”. Your management team needs to include people for whom the answer is “No”.
Before you raise the cliche that “graveyards are full of indispensable men”, note that the question isn’t “can anyone replace him/her?”, because you’d probably say “No” to that question about every top person you have, and you’d be wrong. The question “can anyone imagine himself replacing him/her” goes deeper into the psyche of an organization, and where the answer is “No”, there you have a person people will follow.
Now we need to find a few more of those.