Thursday, April 26, 2012

Steve Jobs - Lessons in Leadership

I just completed reading Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs.

The book chronicles the life of Steve Jobs and his impact of various industries including: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

In addition to the biography, Isaacson wrote an interesting article in Harvard Business Review describing the Leadership Lessons he gleaned from Jobs' life. These included:

  1. Focus
  2. Simplify
  3. Take Responsibility End-to-End
  4. When Behind, Leapfrog
  5. Put Products Before Profits
  6. Don't be a Slave to Focus Groups
  7. Bend Reality
  8. Impute
  9. Push for Perfection
  10. Tolerate Only "A" Players
  11. Engage Face-to-Face
  12. Know Both the Big Picture and the Details
  13. Combine Humanities with the Sciences
  14. Stay Hungry Stay Foolish

Some of these leadership traits are standard fare from a traditional business school text books. Others were clearly unique to Jobs' charisma and style.

After some thoughts, deliberation and further reading, my two takeaways are as follows:

Regarding Jobs' charisma, Forrester's George Colony wrote an interesting article on companies that are run by charismatic leaders. He cites Max Weber's translated work, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization, which includes a discussion of the role of a charismatic leader within an organization. Weber wrote that the charismatic authority "is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities." Wow. When you couple Jobs' design instincts and vision with his charisma, it's no wonder he was so successful.

Regarding Jobs' style, I definitely cannot condone the way Jobs treated people. It is, antithetical to the management philosophy I learned early in my career at Hewlett-Packard (about treating others with respect).

All in all, what's clear is that Jobs was certainly a unique individual. While I cannot commend his means, I definitely admire what was able to accomplish.

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