Leadership Lessons From Steve Jobs

Widely credited as one of the all-time entrepreneurs and a cult-hero in the tech scene, Steve Jobs has in a variety of ways shaped the way in which organisations lead their people. I’ll concede straight off the bat, judging by his biography, that Jobs could be a nightmare at times to work for, so let’s not conflate the effectiveness of his leadership techniques with kindness; as Walter Isaacson put it, “there was good Steve, and bad Steve.” 

One thing, however, is indisputable: after an eleven-year hiatus, with Apple just 90-days from insolvency, he was brought back as an advisor, surrounded himself with people he knew were A-players, like designer Jonathon Ive- and got to work on what is widely credited as one of the greatest corporate turnarounds in history. His first move was to stop the company hemorrhaging money by canceling projects and consolidating staff. Next, he secured valuable investment money from Microsoft and sold off assets to fund the third part of his strategy: focusing not on business today, but business in the future.  

"The best ideas have to win- otherwise good people don’t stay. Teamwork is dependent on trusting the other folks to come through with their part without watching them all the time.” 

I digress- but it is an astounding story. In light of his achievements, who better to turn to when we’re talking about effective leadership skills and how best to motivate the people inside an organisation to go above and beyond.  

Make the Vision the Mission

Jobs once said in a keynote a long, long time ago that there “ needs to be someone who is the keeper and reiterator of the vision because there’s a tonne of work to do. A lot of times when you have to walk a thousand miles when you take the first step, it looks like a long way.”

“It really helps if there’s someone there saying ‘well, we’re one step closer’, you know, the goal definitely exists- it’s not just a mirage out there. So in a thousand-and-one little and sometimes larger ways, the vision needs to be reiterated… I do that a lot.”


Speaking of Apple’s mission at a keynote address, Jobs said that “what we’re about isn’t making boxes for people to get their jobs done; although we do that well- we do that better than almost anybody in some cases. Apple is about something more than that. Apple, at its core, it’s core value is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better- that’s what we believe.” 

As far as a vision statement, that’s inspiring not just for consumers- it’s incredibly inspiring for any members of staff that might be feeling a bit deflated that day. Far more than becoming the best-selling computer-manufacturer in the world, the vision Jobs explained is an inspiring outline of what its employees should aspire to help the company achieve; and it was underpinned with a genuine sense of passion. 

If you have a group of six people or a group of sixty, it’s not hard to see how they could run in different directions and tear the cohesive vision apart. If you have someone- regardless of them being the leader or not- who takes it upon themselves to set a clear, achievable and persuasive vision for the people that make up an organisation. This works for a variety of reasons: goals are inextricably linked to motivation, and achieving those goals sustains high-performing workers with the fulfillment they need to keep those results up. More pointedly, however, is that if your team is well aware of the vision, their efforts and day-to-day decision making will be in line with the organisation’s goals and overall direction; there’s little point in celebrating a breakthrough if it’s in the wrong direction. 

Likewise, an inspiring vision will help you retain your key talent, and attract some of the brightest brains to your organisation; remember, you’re in the business of buying brainpower, so it’s in everyone’s best interest that you’ve got the best possible candidates knocking on the door to your organisation. “If you want to hire great people,” he said, "and have them stay working for you, you have to let them make a lot decisions, and you have to be run by ideas- not hierarchy. The best ideas have to win- otherwise good people don’t stay. Teamwork is dependent on trusting the other folks to come through with their part without watching them all the time.” 

I’m planning on continuing this thread, taking the best pieces of advice from some of the biggest names in the corporate and political world in the coming days and weeks in the lead-up to our 2020 Vision Conference, which is selling-out fast; so get in before it’s too late.


As always, thanks for your time.

Kobi Simmat. 

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