I do not think that anyone can dispute that Steve Jobs was a visionary. He took an under-performing company and through his tenacity and vision created a brand and suite of products that many people would pay any price to own. What other companies would enjoy admired celebrities such as Stephen Fry, voluntarily singing, nay, worshipping the products that you produce? But please, do not try and be like Steve Jobs!
Despite the numerous patents to his name and the inventions he is accredited with, I don’t think Steve Jobs created anything I would consider new or revolutionary:
The Macintosh and iMac: Desktop computers – we already had them
The iPod: Personal digital music players – we already had them
The iPhone: Smartphones – we already had them
The iPad: Tablet computers – we already had them
What he did succeed in doing, over and over was taking a technical solution or product and bringing it to the masses. The focus was taken away completely from technical specifications and oneupmanship (faster processor, higher resolution, more megabytes) to what it actually means for the average consumer who doesn’t know or care what a screen resolution or a megapixel is. His tunnel vision and singular goal was creating products that everyone can and wants to use, and making them as easy to understand and to use as is absolutely possible.
And he succeeded in doing that, time and time again.
So why would I be saying don’t emulate him? By all means, try and emulate his success, have a vision and the courage and tenacity to pursue it, but do not try and do it how Steve did it or you will no doubt crash and burn.
Like most of us, I did not know Steve Jobs other than what I read about him, but to me, he did not appear to be a very nice person at all. He appeared to treat people with utter distain and lack of respect, breaking the golden rule at all times. I won’t go into the details here, because if you are reading this you are probably already aware of some of the legendary stories. It certainly appears though that he managed to break all the rules regarding leadership and still got the results.
The rules of good leadership are well established, and can generally be summised as getting others to do what you want them to do because they want to do it, rather than because they feel they must or that they are fearful of not doing it. If you don’t follow these rules and don’t treat people with the respect they deserve, encourage them, reward them and get buy in to your vision, making them feel safe, secure and valued, you will likely fail.
So how did Steve Jobs break so many rules yet appear to have become one of the best business leaders in modern corporate history? I believe that Steve Jobs was so good at what he did, had such fantastic vision and single mindedness in what he wanted to achieve, that he succeeded despite his shortcomings.
Great people leave great legacies, which normally involves making a change that positively effects a great number of people. Steve Jobs made some great advances in consumer technology through improved user experience, but does he fit my definition of leaving a great legacy? Only time will tell.
Do you think Steve Jobs has created a lasting and great legacy? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment.
A lifetime Brummie & Startup Mentor with several ventures under his belt. Phil has a infectious enthusiasm for fledgling businesses that easily hides an ability to cut to the chase in identifying what works, what doesn't, and translating ideas into viable businesses.