The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs – by Walter Isaacson

I recently finished the Book, “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson.   The book was very well written and told such a compelling story.  To his credit Steve asked the author to tell the full story of his life, the good and the bad.  I am conflicted on how to approach a blog story concerning any leadership lessons from Steve Jobs.

Alas, I do not need to, as the author himself today published a piece in the Harvard Business Review concerning just that topic – The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs.  The link to the full story is below.  I encourage each of you to read it.  As expected, the story is well written and does point to the positive aspects of Steve Jobs and his leadership.  There are lessons here for us.

Here is the link to the full article.  I repeat the link below after my summary.

Harvard Business Review Article

When asked what his most important creation was, Steve Jobs did not say the Mac or the iPod or later the iPad.  He stressed that his most important creation was making an enduring company.  For all of us to be part of and lead something that endures beyond our direct touch – that would be a powerful thing and should be part of the higher order of leadership.

While the article goes into more depth here is the list of Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs as describes by Walter Isaacson:

  • Focus: “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”
  • Simplify: 1) Insert quarter. 2) Avoid Klingons (read the article)
  • Take Responsibility End to End: Get involved beginning to end to assure “the whole widget” comes together and works.
  • When Behind, Leapfrog: “If we don’t cannibalize ourselves. someone else will.”
  • Put Products Before People: From the lips of a CEO, “Don’t Compromise”.
  • Don’t Be a Slave to Focus Groups: Job’s version of empathy — “an intimate intuition about the desires of his customers”.
  • Bend Reality: Simply the “Reality Distortion Field“.
  • Impute: Add a Handle to the Desktop Computer.
  • Push For Perfection: Hit the Pause Button When Necessary.  We will get it right.
  • Tolerate Only “A” Players: “If something sucks, I tell people to their face. It’s my job to be honest”.
  • Engage Face-to-Face: The Pixar Building was designed to promote unplanned encounters and collaboration. Also as I read the book I was taken by Steve’s practice to conduct so many discussions by walking around the block.
  • Know Both The Big Picture and the Details: The grand vision and the shape and size of the screws.
  • Combine the Humanities with the Sciences: Creativity to technology, arts to engineering.
  • Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes…”

Since the publication of this book Walter Isaacson has been asked nonstop about the “lessons of leadership” from Steve Jobs.  This article I believe serves to answer those questions.  The author says that business schools will be studying Steve Jobs and his leadership a century from now.  Well, the lessons are here, now, and fresh for us to review and reach our own understanding.

Harvard Business Review Article

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