Itâ€™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 itâ€™s even tougher to follow in the footsteps of an iconâ€”a leader who didnâ€™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 canâ€™t escape the shadow of Jack Welch, Fortuneâ€™s â€śManager of the Centuryâ€ť for the 20th century.
So itâ€™s fair to say that Tim Cook, Steve Jobsâ€™s successor at Apple, is stepping into the toughest job imaginableâ€”taking over for everyoneâ€™s choice as â€śManager of the Centuryâ€ť 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.