News broke this morning that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has disclosed he has a hormone imbalance that lead to his steady decline in weight this past year. Rumors about him on his deathbed, I suppose, are greatly exaggerated. I've been on the fence regarding whether he was right or wrong to not share this information earlier. A person's health is nobody's business but their own. But as the CEO of a very public company, doesn't he have the obligation to his shareholders to disclose any and all information that might affect the health of the company they own? Put it that way, the answer seems clear. However, put it another way like so - as the owner of a business, do you have the right to ask about the private health matters of your employees? Your answer may be different.
In the end, I think that Apple has always been a secretive company and Steve Jobs has always been very tight lipped about his personal life. However, I think that this whole thing could have been diffused very quickly by either offering full disclosure early on - "Steve is undergoing tests to figure out why he's losing weight. We've ruled out a return of his cancer and the best medical team in the country is on the case. They have assured us that his life is not in any danger." Or by having a very clear succession plan - "The success of Apple can be attributed to many good people, not just Steve. In the event that Steve wishes to step down, it'll be in the good hands of Person X." One thing I'll give Microsoft is that the ascension of Ballmer to the throne was gradual and very clearly laid out. You can at least rule out any succession ambiguity as the cause of their recent woes.