Friday, December 19, 2008

parallels between Steve Jobs and Mao Zedong, and where they break down

Make no mistake about it, Steve Jobs is a capitalist, if not by predilection then at least by necessity and long association, and as such he's done rather well.

But you don't have to scratch him very deeply to find a sort of revolutionary, someone who can't abide the absence of progress. In this he's rather like Mao, who became nervous as ‘his’ revolution seemed to be reaching a conclusion, even if a nominally successful one. Jobs is a wiser man than Mao, however, and his inclination to keep pushing forward is unlikely to produce anything even remotely analogous to the widespread devastation that precipitated from some of Mao's less clueful decisions. The withering of Macworld is about as close as you're likely to see, and there's good arguments on both sides for that.

But, just as Mao retired rather early as head of state, you can expect Jobs to increasingly leave the day-to-day details to others, even if he remains CEO for a few more years. In his case it's likely to be a conscious decision from the outset, to free up his time, enabling him to give more attention to Apple's long term future, and for those close enough to him to have a good idea of what he's choosing to spend time on, the degree to which he becomes personally involved with any deal or issue will be a good measure of how critical he views it as being over the long term.

This doesn't play as well to the public as a keynote, but once he quits emceeing any keynotes himself, if and when he shows up for a cameo, whether in person or via remote link, pay close attention to what he has to say; it will have a density of significance many times that of the casual comments he might make in the context of a longer presentation, and you can bank on it not being hogwash.

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