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Why founders don’t always make the best CEOs

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick speaks to students in Mumbai in 2016.
Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
By the time founders realize the importance of culture, of management, and of treating employees well, it’s often extremely difficult to fix what’s gone wrong.
  • Walter Frick
By Walter Frick

Membership editor


It’s strange to imagine it now, but decades before Facebook or Uber came along, Apple was Silicon Valley’s wild child.

“What’s the difference between Apple and the Boy Scouts?” went a joke at the company in the early 1980s. “The Boy Scouts have adult supervision.”

Co-founder Steve Jobs knew he needed help, and in 1983, he recruited John Sculley, the then-president of Pepsi, to take over as Apple’s CEO. For a while he and Sculley got along well. But when things soured, Jobs mounted a coup. It failed and he ultimately left the company. This period away from Apple is central to the Jobs mythology. He founded NeXT and Pixar, and in 1997 he triumphantly came back to a struggling Apple. Within a year he regained the role of CEO. The founder had returned.

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