Wall Street desperately needs more CEOs like Jobs

Fewer golden parachutes and more vision are needed for corporate America to make a comeback.

By InvestorPlace Oct 5, 2011 10:22PM

By Jeff Reeves, InvestorPlace.com

By now you've surely heard that Steve Jobs, the visionary behind Apple (AAPL), has passed away.

There will be a million legacy stories written about the passing of Apple's front man, but the one I hope gets the most attention by investors is the story of Steve Jobs the CEO -- a true leader at a time when many people in corner offices are frankly not worthy of the post.

We need more leadership in corporate America right now and fewer golden parachutes.

Steve Jobs built Apple with his own two hands with passion, and he redoubled his efforts in 1997 to save the company from failure. He was a true leader who always wowed the masses with his creativity and never stopped making Apple better -- right up until the very end.

Wall Street's corner offices desperately need men and women with the vision and drive of this man.

Lest you fall into that old Wall Street trap of counting money, understand that dollars and cents have nothing to do with money. Yes, Apple Inc. is now a $100 billion business thanks to Steve Jobs, and the man was one of the 50 wealthiest Americans at the time of his death. But Jobs was building a cultural force of a company more than building a bank account. Of course, it's easy to get rich when you're a cultural force -- but Steve Jobs knew which step had to come first. User experience and the products always came first.

Some people may scoff at this statement. But in case you haven't noticed, the folks who tend to put money first and foremost see only short-term success at best and long-term damage at worst. Think about record profits at banks due to subprime loans. Think of Detroit automakers that thought high-margin SUVs were the only vehicle worth making. I'm sure you can think of a dozen other examples.

I admit, it's hard to believe that a CEO would do anything that isn't for money -- especially after the ugly headlines of the past few years. Bank of America (BAC) CEO Ken Lewis got a $125 million payday when he left the smoldering wreckage of a financial company in 2009. Now-ousted Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Carol Bartz got nearly $50 million for her first year on the job before being fired 20 months later after accomplishing next to nothing -- and a plush $10 million severance deal.

But Steve Jobs was different. He was a leader, a creative force, a true "business builder" as the phrase was meant to be used and not some joker with an MBA who had a Six Sigma certification.

Don't get me wrong -- he was far from perfect. By many accounts his management style was a bit severe. And while Apple has many fans, it also has many critics of its control-freak mentality.

But that's the company Jobs built. It was a business faithful to his vision above all else, and it achieved fantastic success as a result.

Wall Street would be wise to learn from how Steve Jobs built and ran Apple. It doesn't matter if you went to a fancy college. It doesn't matter how many boards you've sat on. Hell, it doesn't even matter if you can juice the earnings numbers this quarter to make analysts happy. The only way a company truly succeeds over the long term is if it finds a unique and creative way to connect with customers, and if it stays true to that vision above all else.

Yes, that's much harder than just watching the clock, waiting for that golden parachute to unfurl. But if corporate America is ever going to dig out of this current economic quagmire, it's going to need more CEOs who think this way.

Steve, shareholders everywhere need you more than ever. You will be sorely missed.

Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the stocks named here. Follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook.

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Oct 6, 2011 9:42AM
This is one of the best written articles I have read since I began following MSN.  Jeff Reeves has hit the "nail on the head" with his intuitive analysis regarding the majority of CEO's in America today.  I have worked for many large corporations and it always amazes me how these guys get their jobs and better yet..how they hang on to them even when the businesses they are supposedly "leading" underperform or fail all together and when this happens they get "rewarded" with golden parachutes, large severance packages etc. and then move on to their next "gig".  The majority of CEO's today are too short sighted, lack vision and are not really capable of managing a business through the good times and bad.  Most of these CEO's have hand picked board of directors who support them so they know their jobs are pretty secure.  Their solution to falling revenue and profits is to close more plants, layoff more people etc. rather than create an environment for innovation, quality, customer service etc.  There is a saying...."The Strength Of The Pack Is Determined By The Strength Of The Leader" but in the majority of cases....corporate America is being led by incompetency...  
Oct 6, 2011 5:59AM

Steve Jobs and people before him will be missed.  God Bless! 


The article about stocks moving up to fast during the last hour.  "...frightens many,..."  Let me say this:  It was simply profit-taking at the right time, for all those who gamble with the big bucks.  We didn't need that speculative article.

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