Steve Jobs was an American business magnate, industrial designer, investor, and media proprietor. He was the chairman, CEO, and co-founder of Apple Inc., the chairman and majority shareholder of Pixar, a member of The Walt Disney Company’s board of directors following its acquisition of Pixar, and the founder, chairman, and CEO of NeXT. Jobs is widely recognized as a pioneer of the personal computer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s, along with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. His technology has had a lasting impact on the world. Under Jobs’ guidance, Apple pioneered a series of revolutionary technologies, including the iPhone and iPad. So, what can we learn from his leadership?

Focus

When Steve Jobs returned to the Apple in 1997 after his removal in 1985, it is not hyperbole to say that Apple was a mess. For example, Apple was producing twelve different versions of its famous Macintosh computers. The core problem for the business was that it was simply mass producing not so great products. They were trying to be all things to all people, and as a result had lost any USP that they may have had. This also meant that they need a lot more headcount and factory space to create so many mediocre products. Sometimes the best thing to do is take a step back and ask if you are focusing on the right thing, rather than continuing to just be busy. He said:

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”.

Jobs was very disappointed in what Apple had become since he left. His solution was simple, he only wanted the company to have 4 great products, they meet peoples needs. By focusing on what actually had to be done, as opposed to being pulled into multiple directions, he changed the course of both his company and the world.

Keep it simple

Steve Jobs was famous for ensuring simplicity. His passion for simplicity is evident in countless product features. This is actually the reason there was not a specific ON/OFF button on the iPod/iPhone/iPad. Its why these devices automatically power down after a short time. Its why we have the iPhone in the first place as he understood the pain of having to carry a phone, a Walkman, a camera, a map all separately when you went out (this one may blow the minds of some of the under 30s, but yes there was a time when we needed about 9 different pockets while on holiday to keep all the individual gadgets). It’s also why he was so famous for wearing the same outfit every day. As leaders this is an important lesson to remember, so often the best solution is the most simplistic solution. If everyone can understand it and see the benefit, it will be widely adopted. 

Develop your people

When most people think about Steve Jobs as a people leader, they think of his quote that says something along the lines of, “it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do”. And whilst this is a great outlook that many leaders should adopt, there is another even more important lesson that leaders should take from Steve Jobs and its summed up by this quote:

“My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better.”

Many leaders forget that a key part of their job is to develop the people under them. It doesn’t matter if you hire the best person in their field. They can still be better. Jobs was ruthlessly candid with his people. He set high standards and made high demands, because he wanted his people to be the best. He pushed them to be better every single day. Where most leaders shy away from providing constructive feedback, Jobs understood that this is the only way to clearly articulate what was wrong and why and demand it be better. He also understood that not everyone could be the best and as a result he did not carry passengers. Whilst this seems very harsh, if you want to be the best in the world, you need to surround yourselves with those who have the capability to be the best in the world and sadly not everyone can be a high performer.

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