When you ask people how would they would describe Steve Jobs you hear a lot of great things and honestly, I’m at a loss of words on how to describe this man who built a company from scratch not once but twice. But, as I keep thinking there are two striking aspects about Steve Jobs that set him apart from peers. One, he was a great Visionary and two, he was a great Leader.
In the early 1980’s when computers were things you would only see in a lab, Steve Jobs had this vision where he saw the computer as the digital hub of human life. Nobody then had the slightest notion that this could be the future until Apple came up with Macintosh. It was the first time Steve Jobs made an impact.
When Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1996 people asked him what was his vision for future, he answered Internet and Networking were the two key things that will revolutionize human life. In-fact, years before the term cloud computing was coined the Next(company Steve Jobs started after he left Apple) work stations had cloud capabilities where the clients could sync all their local data to the server without ever worrying about data loss and the best part is – all of this happened in the background with out the user ever knowing it. He wanted Apple to leverage all these advances in Networking. Fast forward 2011 – we now have iCloud that does exactly what Steve wanted. This is the power of vision. He patiently waited 14 years to turn this vision into reality.
But having vision alone isn’t enough always – the problem is that people don’t get it as its set in the future. Imagine going back to 1980s and explaining the concept of personal computer to an accountant. It would have made absolutely no sense for him as all he needed was a calculator. But, Steve Jobs was a master at articulating his vision and proved it multiple times. He did this with the Macintosh, he did it with the iPod and he did it again in a very big way with the iPhone. Talking to Steve Jobs about his vision often left people wondering if it was really a vision or if Steve was carrying a prototype of the product they were discussing. This happened with Stan Sigman the wireless boss of AT&T in 2006. Sigman who is usually conservative called the iPhone “the best device I have ever seen.” – at the end of his meeting with Steve Jobs. (this was before any actual work started on iPhone). I really can not think of any other entrepreneur in our era with so much vision and such immense capability to execute that vision.
For me leadership is about giving people direction, inspiring and helping them collectively move towards that goal. Steve was a master at this – Not only he attracted great talent but he gave them a direction. The thing with really smart people is that they are individually brilliant but when you put them in teams and ask them to collaborate their productivity comes down. Steve Jobs made sure this wasn’t the case at Apple as well as Pixar. He not only inspired friends and colleagues but inspired his competition alike. Bill Gates said the following about Steve in 1998 “In terms of an inspirational leader, Steve Jobs is really the best I have ever met,” . Nobody could have said it better.
Another quality of Steve’s leadership is his stubbornness and his quest for perfection. He was the first consumer of Apple’s products and his attention to detail was so demanding that no matter what he wouldn’t release a product until it was picture perfect. To give you a perspective – when Apple was designing iMac which had a transparent body he was so demanding that he wanted the chip boards to be beautiful, yes the chip boards. Can you imagine any other CEO doing this? Many people might not really like this aspect of Steve’s leadership, but honestly iPhone, iPod or any Apple product for that matter would have been one more product in the market sans this ideal. In-fact if you look at history books all great leaders were stubborn and never compromised on their core values. Take Gandhi for example, he was so stubborn in his quest for non-violence that even his life didn’t matter to him. Same is the case with Jobs – he was relentless in his quest for perfection.
To sum it all up in Steve’s own words, here’s what he said in at commencement address at Stanford in 2005 –
” Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary – Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish“.
Thats how he’s been all his life and thats what we sincerely hope to imbibe in to our culture at WebileApps – Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish. Thanks Steve for your single greatest invention – Apple and thanks for letting us know the power of PASSION and VISION and how we can change the world.