Lessons from Leaders: Steve Jobs

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You’ve likely been told that it’s never too early to start honing your leadership skills,

no matter what stage you’re at in your career

. But why is it so important to be a good leader?

Ultimately, great leadership equals great results. The best leaders have the determination and drive to realize their vision, and they’ll also inspire and motivate their people to deliver their finest work.

You’d be hard-pushed to think of an organization more ambitious and results-driven than Apple, which is largely thanks to the culture built by its late co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs.

Read on to explore leadership lessons from Steve Jobs’ incredible career, including the importance of attention to detail and refusing to compromise on quality.

Who Is Steve Jobs?

Like many wildly successful entrepreneurs, Steve Jobs’ pathway to success was far from conventional. In 1976, Jobs co-founded Apple

with his friend and engineering expert Steve Wozniak

in the former’s family garage.

Thanks to Jobs’ charisma and drive, Apple got off to a promising start. But in 1985, following a series of commercial flops, Jobs

was pushed out of the

company during a failed boardroom coup.

He didn’t return as Apple’s CEO until 1997, but the two decades that followed were nothing short of revolutionary for the company. The

iMac launched in 1998

, the iPod in 2001, the MacBook Pro in 2006, and the iPhone in 2007. Today the iPhone is widely acknowledged as the

most successful product of all time


Jobs passed away in October 2011, but his legacy lives on. In California,

Steve Jobs Day

is celebrated each year on October 16.

5 Lessons on Leadership from Steve Jobs

You’ll note that some of the lessons below go directly against common leadership advice.

Jobs’ management style was highly unorthodox, and he quickly earned himself a reputation for being extremely tricky to work with. He was also known for getting too involved in the details and being unwilling to delegate to others.

Yet despite his eccentric management style, Jobs had a stellar career and by the end of his life was considered one of the greatest modern business leaders. Here are five lessons to be learned from his leadership style.



Sweat the Small Stuff

Jobs wasn’t a gifted scientist or engineer, but he understood how to build and sell a product that people really wanted to buy.

He knew that the smallest of details mattered, from product design and functionality, to

what hue of grey the sign

for a restroom should be and what

shape the screws

inside the iMac should be. Some would say that Jobs took the decision-making process a little too seriously at times, but being a stickler for detail certainly paid off for Apple in the long run.

Taking time to ponder over the small details might only contribute to small wins. But those small wins are all-important when they ultimately lead to the big wins and big results. Leaders that set this example will encourage their workforce to take pride in everything they do, no matter how inconsequential it might seem.

2. Keep Things Simple

Apple’s first advertising brochure

stated that

“simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Jobs’ dedication to developing simple products is reflected in everything Apple does today, from store layouts to product packaging and its marketing campaigns. Jobs believed that finding the most simple and elegant solution to a challenge required a profound understanding of the product.

Jobs also applied this mentality to the number of different products Apple developed. When he returned to Apple as CEO in 1997, he quickly cut down the number of products the company was manufacturing from

350 to 10


It sounds counterintuitive, but stripping things back is often the pathway to creative success.

3. Be Responsible

Jobs was considered a terrible delegator because he wanted to be involved in every decision that was made. Not only is this unfeasible for many leaders, but it implies a lack of faith in their employees.

As a leader rises through the ranks of their organization, it gets easier to bow out of the creative processes and lose perspective. This was never an option for Jobs, no matter what success Apple enjoyed or how big the company became.

4. Have a Vision

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently,” said

Steve Jobs in the 1997

Think Different

Apple commercial.

Jobs had a vision and stuck with it at all costs, priding himself on his ability to go against the grain and think outside the box. He famously said, "People don't know what they want until you show it to them."

When it comes to innovation, leaders must have courage in their convictions. A leader who can passionately articulate their vision, and stick with it, is more likely to realize their dreams and bring their workforce along for the ride.

5. Never Settle for Less Than the Best

Jobs didn’t just focus on getting the small details right; he was utterly committed to developing the perfect product.

At times, this saw him delaying product launches and, allegedly making wildly unreasonable demands while displaying negative leadership traits.

For example, it’s alleged

that when engineers developing the iPod presented the first prototype to Jobs, he rejected the product because it was too big. The engineers explained that making the iPod any smaller was impossible, to which Jobs responded by promptly dropping the device into a nearby fish tank. Jobs reasoned that the air bubbles rising to the surface of the tank were proof that there was excess space inside the iPod.

This bullying behavior should never be emulated, not least because there are more respectful ways to motivate your employees into achieving their best work.

But in making it his top priority to develop the best and most exciting products, and

not just the most profitable ones,

Jobs enjoyed unparalleled success.

How to Lead Like Steve Jobs

How do you incorporate these leadership lessons into your day-to-day behavior? Ask yourself the following questions:

Are my team members and I producing our very best work? If not, what could be improved?

In what ways am I overcomplicating this project/challenge/product? How can I simplify matters?

Am I aware of what everyone in my team is working on? Do they come to me for guidance and advice, safe in the knowledge that I will want to help?

Am I passionate about what my team and I are creating? Do I have a clear vision and long-term goals? If not, why not?

Am I speaking to my team with respect and allowing them the freedom to deliver to a high standard?

Image Credit: Photo Oz / Shutterstock.com


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