Leadership Secrets of Steve Jobs

Posted on May 22, 2012



Walter Isaacson, the author of Steve Jobs biography prepared a lengthy article in the April 2012 Harvard Business Review. He captured fourteen leadership lessons of the innovation icon. I have distilled them here with the most salient Job’s quotes.

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

2. Simplify. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. It takes a lot of hard work to make something simple, to truly understand the underlying challenges and come up with elegant solutions.”

3. Take Responsibility End to End. “People are busy. They have other things to do than think about how to integrate their computers and devices.”

4. When Behind, Leapfrog. “If we don’t cannibalize ourselves, someone else will,”

5. Put Products Before Profits. “My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary…the products, not the profits, were the motivation. It’s a subtle difference, but it ends up meaning everything-the people you hire, who gets promoted, what you discuss in meetings.”

6. Don’t Be a Slave To Focus Groups. “We made the iPod for ourselves and when you’re doing something for yourself, or your best friend or family, you’re not going to cheese out.”

7. Bend Reality.  “Yes, you can do it. Get your mind around it. You can do it. Don’t be afraid.”

8. Impute. “…people do judge a book by its cover.”

9. Push for Perfection. “A great carpenter isn’t going to use lousy wood for the back of a cabinet, even though nobody’s going to see it.”

10. Tolerate Only “A” Players. “I’ve learned over the years that when you have really good people, you don’t have to baby them,”

11. Engage Face-to-Face. “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by e-mail and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.”

12. Know Both the Big Picture and The Details. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes says that one of Jobs’s salient traits was his ability and desire to envision overarching strategy while also focusing on the tiniest aspects of design.

13. Combine the Humanities with The Sciences. “I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics.  Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Land of Polaroid, said about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”

14. Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish. “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes…” (Apple “Think Different” ad)

“While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

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Posted in: innovation