By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
August 27, 2018

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Good morning. It is a time of transitions, in the world and in Silicon Valley. The United States has lost a heroic public servant in John McCain. Elon Musk might be entering his realistic phase, acknowledging that he’ll keep Tesla public. (Fewer distractions, more car manufacturing.) And, improbably, Intuit’s CEO of 11 years, Brad Smith, is calling it quits.

Smith, 54, and his success make his retirement improbable. He has guided Intuit from a too-diversified software maker to a focused subscription-service company. Its returns under his leadership have far outpaced the market.

So why leave now?

Smith explained himself as best he could to Fortune’ Geoff Colvin, who repeatedly has chronicled and interpreted Smith’s tenure at Intuit. The Intuit chief, himself a successor to the legendary Silicon Valley coach Bill Campbell, told Colvin it’s time for someone else to lead Intuit and that it’s time for Smith to think about his next chapter. “You are capable of reinventing yourself, as a company or as a leader, while preserving the core of what you are,” Smith told Colvin last week.

Leaders rarely step down just because. McCain, for example, served his country to his last breath, an honorable man and role model at a time when honor and admirable behavior are in horribly short supply in Washington, D.C.

But Smith has shown that even a superbly accomplished business leader isn’t indispensable. A career is about more than service to one company, especially when companies think nothing of dispensing with the services of any one individual.

Intuit will do great things without Smith—who undoubtedly will do more great things outside of Intuit.

Have a great week.

Adam Lashinsky


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