Advance Performance | Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs
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Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs

Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs

As another new movie exploring the life and character of the legendary entrepreneur Steve Jobs opens today, the influence of the Apple co-founder continues in all our daily lives four years after he died.

Steve Jobs eshot

Visionary innovator Steve Jobs was a renowned leader and CEO of Apple, one of the most recognised brands on our planet.  His journey from the young man who started his business in his parents’ garage to becoming the Steve Jobs of books, movies, television documentaries, social media debates and hundreds of web articles reflects his global influence – one man who did change the way we perceive our world.

“Becoming Steve Jobs”  is the title of the book which inspired the new movie Steve Jobs  released in the UK today.  Becoming Steve Jobs is very appropriate for a man who persevered with his ideas and vision. The film title reflects his growth in developing his empathy skills, to directly lead the creative team who have successfully continued his Apple legacy to become the world’s most successful company.

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

His strengths lay in his leadership of the product – and arguably many of the most innovative products of our time including the iMac, iPod, iPod nano, iTunes Store, Apple Stores, MacBook, iPhone, iPad, App Store and OS X Lion.  Each of these inventions is synonymous with one man’s vision to change our world.

Jobs pioneered ideas to create new products for consumers – not to improve on previous products, but to take people on a technological journey of risk – he showed us what we WOULD want if he made the product available.  Jobs said that he created the products he and his friends wanted to use, not what focus groups would say, as consumers could not know what they wanted if it had not already been invented!

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

Steve Jobs showed significant focus to achieve a product which would be released on to the market.  His focus on the detail ensured the simplicity of the product, but this also took commitment and perseverance.  When he created the original Mackintosh in the early 1980s, he took his design team on a retreat where he stressed the importance of the computer’s capabilities not the price or profit.  He wrote “Don’t compromise” on the whiteboard for his team. This focus on excellence and quality was always key to his leadership. Innovation of the product was his motivation, for example, the iMac concentrated on the user’s photos and videos.  He designed the iPod to embrace the concept of downloading music.  He created a product of excellence that set the way for the future of listen, carry, download and even producing a new way to buy music online at iTunes.

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.”

From his return to Apple in 1997 until his last years, Jobs took his top 100 team members on annual retreats to develop products.  On the final day he would ask the team to suggest ideas “What are the ten things we should be doing next?”  Then he would encourage discussion until the team could hone the list to the top three priorities.

This simplification of ideas and design was synonymous with Jobs and his pioneering products.  He even removed the on/off switch on the iPod to ensure its simplicity.  He encouraged his teams to focus on the essentials for each product and combine the essentials into one product such as the iMac and the iPad.

“Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

After he returned to become CEO of Apple in 1997, he developed the iPod, iPad and iPhone which are now integral to many of our daily lives. Jobs struggled with his emotional intelligence, his people skills, which greatly affected the success of Apple in the early days. Forbes Contributor, Dave Coursey explains: “Jobs was busy changing the world and minor annoyances like people’s feelings didn’t fit into his plan.

After he was ousted from Apple, Jobs worked on his weaknesses in empathy adapting to become a leader of a core team of innovators which included Tim Cook, who have continued his legacy after Steve Jobs’ death in 2011.  And so he became Steve Jobs.