Practically Radical
October 5th, 2011

How to Lead After a Legend

It’s tough as a new CEO to fix a troubled company suffering under a legacy of misleadership, as Meg Whitman is about to learn at Hewlett-Packard. But it’s even tougher to follow in the footsteps of an icon—a leader who didn’t just win big with the company, but changed the game in the industry.

Just ask James Parker, who took over at Southwest Airlines after the larger-than-life Herb Kelleher, and stepped down after three underwhelming years. Or ask Jeffrey Immelt, who has spent a decade as CEO of General Electric, but still can’t escape the shadow of Jack Welch, Fortune’s “Manager of the Century” for the 20th century.

So it’s fair to say that Tim Cook, Steve Jobs’s successor at Apple, is stepping into the toughest job imaginable—taking over for everyone’s choice as “Manager of the Century” for the 21st century. How should Cook lead in the footsteps of such a legend? Over the weekend, The Washington Post asked me to write about that question. You can find my answer, in the form of an essay, here.