What was it like to coach Steve Jobs?

John Mattone, one of the leading authorities in the world on leadership and culture, is famous for coaching Steve Jobs. This article is based on my conversation with him about what the experience was like and what Steve Jobs learnt.

He was arguably the greatest CEO of the modern era globally, his vision magically transformed four industries — personal computer, music, movies and mobile. A legend by the age of 30, tons of pages have been written about his creativity, innovation, intensity and focus. Sometimes called a tough manager and unforgiving, but always non-compromising and single-minded about his vision.

A lot can be learned from Steve’s two stints at Apple and his leadership style that turned around a faltering computer maker bordering on closure into the creative powerhouse that became the planet’s most valuable company.

It is indeed humbling to coach a strong personality and a legend like Steve Jobs.

In a moment of self-discovery Steve agreed to take John Mattone’s MLEI assessment and had two subsequent coaching sessions with John.

Here is what can be learned about the great man:

1. He was intensely curious to learn more about his leadership style, gaps and to improve himself

Unlike some of the popular caricature of Steve Jobs as a difficult manager, he was curious to discover more about himself, how he came across to others and to be more effective as a leader. He was becoming more aware of his style, how it could limit his impact and to make changes.

2. He got together an incredible A-team of leaders

As a direct outcome of his self-awareness, he put together an amazing A-team of leaders — perhaps a team of incredibly talented and diverse leaders that only he could have led. In each functional area — design, marketing, sales, operations, software, hardware engineering — he brought together people with game changing vision and talent. He served as the glue who brought them together and kept them focused on larger vision, moving ahead relentlessly. Unlike many other leaders, his choices were not compromised by personality, personal preferences or other considerations. He brought together people like Jonathan Ive, Ron Johnson, Tim Cook, Avie Tevanian … indisputably the hottest talent and in turn they delivered.

3. He was a lot more people-focused

Steve was a lot more people-focused with a highly nuanced knowledge of motivators and drivers of people and teams. He built reward schemes and constantly egged his teams on for setting highest standards of performance. It was both a great environment for the best talent to thrive as well as relentless focus on excellence — a balance not many are able to strike at such a high level.

4. He was becoming keenly aware of his own limitations

This is what shows his evolution as a ground breaking leader. He became aware of his own limitations as a leader and worked with his famous intensity to make progress. He became a better listener, he gave more freedom to others and created multiple projects for his leaders to succeed. All the time he eliminated bureaucracy and anything that came in Apple’s pursuit of its vision.

5. He built a self-sustaining and winning institution

For the longest time, it seemed as if Apple was Steve Jobs. Articles and analysis were written about how the company could not survive without the vision of its famous co-founder. But Steve proved skeptics wrong by building an enduring institution that bears his innovation DNA and continues to make strides as the world’s premier technology company. He did this by:

- building a unique culture

- institutionalizing a process of hiring and rewarding the best talent

- growing their very own product development process

Here is what John Mattone says about his experience of coaching Steve Jobs:

As a coach who interacted with Steve, I am humbled and feel privileged to have witnessed this amazing turnaround and success story.

What is your own success story?

How will you build your team? How will you become aware of your own unique mix of gifts and improvement areas? How will you prioritize and develop your leverage points?

Come experience this unique journey with me in this immersive 8-month Intelligent Leadership Program:


Seats are limited, so join today!!

Here is a quick look at what you get:

- Go through the exact same assessment that Steve Jobs did

- Be a part of a global cohort of leaders and learn jointly

- Assess your growth through the Talent Watch surveys (before and after)

- You have the option of one-to-one coaching with me!!

Here is the link again, but act now!