Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Steve Jobs and Leadership Lessons.

Many people across the globe will be mourning the loss of Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple who sadly lost his battle against pancreatic cancer and died on the 5th October 2011 and wondering whether Apple will be able to continue his legacy and produce the same quality of iconic items for which Jobs will ever be synonymous with – the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad.  But it’s not Job’s creativity that I want to focus on in this post but the leadership lessons that can be learnt from him.

Although it is Jobs who has always been the ‘face’ of Apple, he was always careful to say that the success of Apple was not down to a single person. In a 60 minutes interview in 2003, he said

“My model for business is The Beatles. There were four guys who kept each others, kind of, negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other, and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. And that's how I see business. You know, great things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people.
                                                                                                  Steve Jobs (2003)

Whether you're a team leader, a supervisor, a first time manager, senior manager, head of a company Jobs makes a very important point.  Too often employees complain that the work they do is not recognised.  If you’re in any supervisory, management or leadership position remember to acknowledge the work and successes of the people you work with, not just to them, but also  in the public arena.  Staff are often motivated to go the ‘extra mile’ when they receive regular praise for the work they've done.

There’s a second point to note from Jobs’ model for business. Successful teams are those that comprise of people with different gifts and expertise that are able to balance each other and the team together can gain more success than each individual. It should be a warning note to anyone who thinks they can work successfully on their own in a company environment when they are part of a team.

Now there’s another leadership lesson to be learnt from Jobs that is less positive. It is often repeated that despite his brilliance, Jobs was often irascible, demanding and often difficult to work with and some of his staff were afraid of him.  Whether he was aware of this I don’t know, but it’s a poor leadership model to follow.  Fear actually doesn’t get the best out of people even though some managers  and leaders believe that it’s worth it because it makes  staff work harder.  It may force people to work harder, but it doesn’t make for a happy workforce or encourage innovation.

But to finish on a positive note, because there are so many positive things to say about the man who was responsible for changing the way people use computers, communicate on the phone and listen to music.  In the design of all his iconic items Jobs not only wanted to give the customer great functionality, he also wanted the goods to all be aesthetically pleasing.  So successful was he in doing this that many Apple customers are often repeat customers buying  updates when they are available or purchasing the next new item. Jobs focussed on providing customers with goods they wanted or identifying a need and fulfilling it. It’s why Apple has been so successful. Steve Jobs leadership will be sorely missed.

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