Steve Jobs … a good leader?

Last week saw the passing of one of the world’s most brilliant innovators and change agents and that the loss will mean that we’ll never get to see what else this remarkable man would have created.

Steve Jobs was undeniably an extraordinary man by any standard. He has left his mark on no less than five industries. Yet this was a middle-class hippie kid with no college education who built a computer empire and became a multi-millionaire in a few years. Despite being fired from Apple in the 80’s, he returned a decade later to save it and turn it into one of the world’s most influential corporations, with millions of fans around the world.

I don’t know if Steve Jobs was a great leader in the true sense of the word or not, he certainly wasn’t a conventional leader. He wasn’t known for his consultative style, nor did he have a consensus building manner. Apparently he was known for his blunt delivery of criticism and he set very high expectations of his staff and those that didn’t live up to his expectations became labelled as ‘bozos.’ It has his arrogance, in fact that caused his downfall from Apple in 1985. However, there is no doubt that he was a visionary leader who changed the thinking and the buying habits of personal computer and digital music buyers worldwide. 

He broke the paradigms in the digital animation world as well as the personal music market and many others. But for me, it was the speech he made at Stanford in March 2006 where he demonstrated at least an understanding of self leadership, being true to his quest to develop and be the best that he could. In the video, he offers some interesting advice to a crowded arena of new graduates at Stanford but the words that stand out most for me are these, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” These are bold words yet they hold a universal truth that we perhaps all know of but are too scared to pursue. How many of us have wanted to follow our hearts but have been too afraid to?

Steve Jobs will be remembered as a remarkable man, a man who challenged the status quo; a man who had an uncanny ability to see into the future and accurately predict the buying habits of people the world over. He was a man who did not think like most of us think, he thought differently!

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. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
— Apples ‘Think Different’ commercial

Below is the video of the speech Steve gave at Stanford in 2006: