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Apple's Executive Team Is Steve Jobs' Greatest Creation

Stocks in this article: AAPL

I saw a stat recently that, if Ron had stayed at Apple over the last year, the stock and options he walked away from at Apple would be worth $170 million today -- due to the explosion in Apple's stock price from $332 to $568 today.

Now, I don't think Ron or any of the others on the Apple management team are primarily motivated by money. I also know that Ron Johnson was paid well to go over to JC Penney and sprinkle some of his Apple magic. However, Ron's lost money does serve to remind how "in the zone" Apple is and the massive opportunity that's still in front of it.

The rest of the Apple management team sees that opportunity clearly and they all bring to the team a different set of skills that are complementary -- from supply chain management, to design, to marketing and product.

The common thread between all of them is they are far less charismatic than Steve (who wasn't?). They are quiet, focused, determined and -- I believe -- quite self-confident. They're confident in a healthy way, not in a boastful or destructive way. The other commonality is a desire to win. These guys are killers. They're relentless. They're going to keep coming after you until the battle is won.

Google (GOOG) has incredibly smart and determined people in management, but their intensity level is dialed down a couple of notches in comparison to Apple.

I've said before that I believe Steve Jobs' final act of brilliance -- his gift to all the great people who built Apple into what it is today -- is going to be his succession plan. And not just at the upper levels of management, but throughout.

George Colony, the CEO of Forrester Research, has argued -- citing a 1940s Max Weber typology -- that Apple is destined to fail because Steve Jobs was charismatic and his organization learned to adjust itself to such a leader. Now, without that charismatic leader, he believes employees won't know how to respond to challenges in their competitive landscape. Basically, the remaining employees remained stunted in their growth and never learned to think for themselves because Steve Jobs was such a dominant and final arbitrator on all decisions.

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We're going to see. But I think Colony and most of the media and blogosphere are going to be surprised just how good these guys -- and the rest of the Apple organization -- are. Even as the biggest company in the world, they're used to being underestimated for their entire careers.

They're going to feel comfortable continuing to exceed others' expectations.

At the time of publication, Eric Jackson was long AAPL.

Eric Jackson is founder and Managing Member of Ironfire Capital and the general partner and investment manager of Ironfire Capital US Fund LP and Ironfire Capital International Fund, Ltd. In January 2007, Jackson started the world's first Internet-based campaign to increase shareholder value at Yahoo!, leading to a change in CEOs in 2007. He also spoke out in favor of Yahoo!'s accepting Microsoft's buyout offer in 2008. Global Proxy Watch named Jackson as one of its 10 "Stars" who positively influenced international corporate governance and shareowner value in 2007.

Prior to founding Ironfire Capital, Jackson was President and CEO of Jackson Leadership Systems, Inc., a leadership, strategy, and governance consulting firm. He completed his Ph.D. in the Management Department at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business in New York, with a specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Governance, and holds a B.A. from McGill University.

He was previously Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at VoiceGenie Technologies, a software firm now owned by Alcatel-Lucent. In 2004, Jackson founded the Young Patrons' Circle at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, which is now the second-largest social and philanthropic group of its kind in North America, raising $500,000 annually for the museum. You can follow Jackson on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ericjackson or @ericjackson.

You can contact Eric by emailing him at eric.jackson@thestreet.com.

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