(Leadership food for thought).The question isn’t whether Steve Jobs was a good leader! What matters is how he used to lead and what lessons we can apply to our own leadership.
It all started around a cup of coffee when Philippe and I talked about leadership and how great leaders deal with leadership. Philippe is a business coach, and his job is to help entrepreneurs and executives with their own leadership. My job is very different from his, but I’ve always had and entrepreneurial mindset and always got very curious about how people lead.
So, we talked about what makes a leader and the discussion went on and on.
After a while, we eventually started wondering what would make a good leader. We obviously thought about someone’s ability to manage and lead people, but we also realized that human management was not the only thing. Leadership is also a matter of trust, a matter of innovation after all, isn’t it? So we started looking for examples and came to talk about Steve Jobs, this genius business leader who created Apple and, over the years, transformed it into what it has become.
As it turned out, Steve Jobs was a very good example.
As a reminder, Steve Jobs co-founded Apple in 1976 with Steve Wozniak. Both had the exceptional ambition to bring computers into every home and let’s face it, forty years later computers are indeed in every home, the Apple ones in particular, not to forget those we carry in our pockets, jackets or handbags on a daily and hourly basis.
Yet, Steve Jobs wasn’t only known for his tremendous business skills, he was also known for being tough with his staff, and many of us have heard stories about staff feeling terrified about interacting with him.
In other words, leadership is not only about business and the question of whether or not Steve Jobs was a good leader is probably of limited interest. What seemed interesting, however, was to explore the leadership methods of Steve Jobs and find out how to reproduce (or not) his approach to our own life and projects. In sum? What if Steve Jobs had acted as a business coach with us?
The question was interesting for various reasons, one being in particular that leadership has become a trendy topic lately, with a large variety of articles actually discussing whether Steve Jobs was a good leader or not. This trend is not very surprising, though, considering that i) people nowadays tend to use procrastination as a means to document themselves and work on their skills, ii) more business leaders tend to be increasingly popular and iii) many seem to have a thing for the apple brand at the moment.
The conclusions we reached after doing a lot of research on Steve Jobs and a lot of studying on the various Apple successes over the past years was that the question of how Steve Jobs led people and projects was far more interesting that finding out whether he was a good leader or not. After all, who cares? What difference does it makes to us? Wouldn’t it be more productive to focus on the how?
Well, the “how” suggests that Steve Jobs’ leadership methods come to ten major leadership lessons.
Leadership Lesson #1: Steve Jobs’ leadership was largely a matter of motivations and passions. Without passion, there can be no incentives, no positive thinking, no stimulation, no leader, no team and no project.
Leadership Lesson #2: Steve Jobs’ leadership was largely a matter of vision, which implies setting the directions that everyone in the team will follow. Without a strong and ambitious vision, there is no perspective. To him, the vision was about bringing computers in every home, and that vision has become the way of doing things for Apple.
Leadership Lesson #3: Steve Jobs’ leadership was also a matter of inspiring people. Decisions would only come from him, goal setting really depended on him too. However persisting at all times and inspiring the teams (and the end-users!) was his mission.
Leadership Lesson #4: Steve Jobs’ leadership was always about creating long-term value for the end-user, which implied creating a dream that the end-user would want to buy.
Relatedly, Leadership Lesson #5 was also that Steve Jobs’ leadership was largely a matter of creating a need that the end-user (or consumer) never knew it had. For instance, did we need tablets and iPods before those were invented by apple? No, we didn’t even know they could exist!
Leadership Lesson #6: Steve Jobs’ leadership therefore had a strong innovation dimension and required a strong dose of creativity. Ask around you, chances are that most people will tell you that Steve Jobs was a great leader because he was an innovator at all times.
Leadership Lesson #7: Steve Jobs’ leadership implied speaking up and speaking well! He was a communicator and knew that communicating efficiently was the best was to give innovation the attention it deserved.
Leadership Lesson #8: Steve Jobs believed in doing thing well. To him, developing a product was a matter of … developing a good product, but certainly not a matter of making money. Money mattered, of course, but money was not the drive. The drive was… well, read above.
Leadership Lesson #9: Steve Jobs’ leadership however became a sensitive point when it came to handling people, and those who question his leadership tend to do it for this very reason. If we tried to adapt his methods to our own leadership, that is, chances are that we would consider working on this point slightly differently, don’t you think?
Leadership Lesson #10: Steve Jobs’ leadership was all about adaptation and therefore his methods can be applied to everyone’s leadership, it all depends on us!
There is obviously far more to say, so there’s a no-fuss book!
There is more to it, though. If you are (still) reading this blog post, chances are that you are interested in leadership question. And if you are interested in leadership questions, chances are also that you are looking for ways to improve your own methods, whether as a leader or more simply as someone who needs to do better with his own personality.
As mentioned earlier, the question is therefore not about what made Steve Jobs a good leader, it is about what you could learn for the way he led people and projects! What if Steve Jobs had acted as a business coach with us?
Steve Job’s leadership methods can’t be summarized in so little text, however. There is clearly a lot more to say and if you are interested in finding out more, everything was compiled in a “no-fuss-straight-to-the-point” book titled “Leadership Development: If Steve Jobs Was Coaching You — Charismatic Leadership Lessons Borrowed from Steve Jobs for High Potential People and Leaders”.
The book does not only talk about the man’s methods, it also asks a series of question that anyone can use to think about what makes (or doesn’t make) sense and to improve their own way of dealing with projects and people. And the whole thing can be read in about an hour so you don’t even need to worry about not having the time to read the whole thing! It’s up to you now!
The book is available on Amazon obviously, but also with Barnes & Noble, Apple, Scribed, Playster and other platforms.