Apple: Succession or failure
Which brings us to Tim Cook. I don't know the guy. We don't hang out in the same circles. His background is ops, which isn't promising, but doesn't have to be crippling. His bigger challenge is that Apple's business model was built around Steve Jobs. Cook won't be able to fill every role Jobs played at Apple, which means he'll have to find an organizational solution that transfers responsibility for a lot of Jobs's duties to other sources.
Dividing roles previously held by a single individual adds overhead and generally delays decision making; things that used to happen inside someone's head now have to be realized through consensus. Steve Denning perceptively points out that one of Jobs's most important roles was Apple's Scrum-like product owner. More than any of his other roles, that one required his vision.
Maybe Cook has it; maybe he'll be able to delegate it. Luckily for Cook, even if he doesn't make it work he'll be able to coast for a long time on existing momentum. Especially with Apple's secretive culture, we'll have a very hard time knowing.
The bottom line: IT leadership requires good stories
What does all of this have to do with you? One way or another, you're an IT leader. You might be by title. You might not. But if you read this blog on a regular basis, you have an interest in the subject and probably not just to help you survive the managers you report to.
How can you tell if you're a leader? It's simple -- others follow your lead. That's what the word means. And if you want others to follow your lead, you have to be able to explain where you think they should be going. That's true whether you're responsible for your company's SharePoint rollout, for an ERP module upgrade, for building out a private cloud, or for taking your company into the public cloud.
Whatever it is you're responsible for, you must have the vision to see it in action before it's built, then to share the motion picture in your head so that everyone else can see it too.
It isn't the sum and substance of leadership. It isn't even where leaders should spend most of their time and effort. It is, however, the indispensable beginning for everything else that follows.
This story, "The vision thing: Are you Steve Jobs or Steve Ballmer?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bob Lewis's Advice Line blog on InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.