Several years ago I read Carmine Gallo’s book The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. The man was a master communicator. His biographer, Walter Isaacson, argues that Jobs also was an outstanding leader despite his sometimes-abrasive personality. “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs” is the title of Isaacson’s article in Harvard Business Review (April, 2012). Jobs “helped to transform seven industries: personal computing, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, retail stores and digital publishing.” What were some leadership lessons?
• Leaders are unique. They aren’t from the same mold or followers of a few leadership laws. Jobs brought his inner passion, intensity, and emotionalism to the leadership role. “His petulance and impatience were part and parcel of his perfectionism.”
• Striving for perfection characterized his personality and his work.
• He kept focused, deciding that what not to do was as important as what to do.
• He valued simplicity in his speaking and his product design.
• Jobs valued face-to-face engagement and had an aversion to slide presentations, especially PowerPoint and bullet lists.
• He was an artist as well as a visionary and an innovator. Consider his idea of “turning textbooks into artistic creations that can be fashioned and crafted” from a computer.
• In terms of marketing, Jobs believed that “people form an opinion about a product or a company [or a vision] on the basis of how it is presented and packaged.”
• He preferred to work with A-level people. Apparently he had little tolerance for those who thought an idea would fail. He believed that “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
• The HBR list says little about building people. Jobs tried to pick competent people and expected that they would do great things even if they were treated roughly and rudely.
What does this say to the rest of us? Perhaps that good leaders know what they do best and then do it. They are models more than they are managers. If they are Christians (Jobs was Buddhist) they accept who they are and let God work through their God-given gifts and abilities.
What have you learned about leadership from Steve Jobs and other significant leaders? Please comment.