The death of Steve Jobs engendered a plethora of articles, presentations, and books, most notably the impressive biography by Walter Isaacson. Indeed, I was among those writers with my article on ten lessons from Steve Jobs. Though Jobs will never disappear from the annals of business history, the buzz since his death has subsided noticeably.
As I reflected on the life and contributions of this enigmatic man, I was struck by a sobering reality. We can write about Jobs’ successes and genius. We can offer leadership lessons learned. But the fact is most of us will never attain the genius nor the notoriety of this man. Are there really lessons from his life and leadership that we can apply in our seemingly mundane lives? As I reflected and read through the posthumous literature, I indeed learned six lessons for the mostly ordinary rest of us.
- We can lead by asking questions. Jobs made most of his decisions by asking questions repeatedly. His two favorites were “Why?” and “Why Not?” We too can become leaders by talking less and listening more. It is amazing what others will teach us when we ask challenging questions.
- We can treat employees and others with respect. For the most part, Jobs abused people verbally and emotionally rather than treat them with respect. He did get away with it because people accepted his negative interpersonal skills to embrace his genius. We have no excuse for treating people poorly. We can learn here by doing the opposite of Jobs.
- We can make meetings strategic. Jobs hated meeting for the sake of meetings. He hated any meeting that did not have a clear and strategic purpose. So should we. Time is one of the most valuable resources we have. We should not waste our time or anyone else’s time.
- We can build passionate teams. If you worked in Steve Jobs’ organization, you had to be sold out to the cause. He understood that intellect and experience were not enough. You had to have passion. Indeed Jobs said that the organization should be one where its employees have the opportunity to change the world. We should build passionate teams, not just competent teams.
- We can be family-focused leaders. Except for the latter part of his life, Steve Jobs was notorious for neglecting his family. His work and his world always came first. He learned this lesson later and seemed to have regrets about his placement of priorities earlier in his life. We should not have those regrets.
- We can improve our presentation skills. So much of the Jobs’ mystique was tied to his charismatic public presentations. The introduction of a new Apple product was an event to rival the Emmys or the Oscars. We may not be able to replicate his presentation skills, but we can learn the leadership importance of improving ours every day.
I imagine we will be reading tomes on the life and leadership of Steve Jobs for decades to come. Admittedly, it can be frustrating to be a leader who is not as smart, strategic, or charismatic as this iconic figure. But that does not mean we who are more common cannot learn from him. I hope that I will view Jobs as a great leader in many ways. And I hope I will be encouraged rather than frustrated that I can apply some of his leadership lessons in my more common life.
What has Steve Jobs taught you about life or leadership?