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Steve Jobs was far from a classical “text-book” example of a great leader or talent manager. As much as many of his customers loved him for the amazing products that changed their lives, many of his employees hated him calling him unreasonable, conniving and even dishonest. Nevertheless his charisma, self-confidence, persistence and passion for work overshadow all his negative characteristics thus making him one of most successful CEO’s of the decade. It is comforting to know that you don’t need to be perfect to achieve great success, and since none of us are perfect, born with flaws and die with flaws – while we are alive, like Steve Jobs, we can put a ‘ding in the universe’.
So what can we learn about the way he managed his talent – his own and that of his employees?
a. Work hard, work persistently !
Steve Jobs believed in doing what he loved, doing it passionately, and doing it till the end. Jobs high work ethic persisted till the very end of his life. He believed that in order to excel you need to have passion for the work you do. He once said, “People with passion can change the world for the better.” And those are the people he hired! He may have been a multibillionaire, but that did not stop him from applying himself fully, centred in what he was doing – his energy, drive and persistence, is one the important factors for his success. His lazer like focus on a few products allowed him to invest his best effort and his best people to create the best products. Although he faced many setbacks, ill health, company politics, failed products, unhappy employees, he never gave up innovating, leading, working, until he died. Even when he got kicked out of Apple he did not sit back and lick his wounds, like most people, giving up and spending his life being bitter about his loss, he went on to start NeXT computers which would eventually be acquired by Apple Computers Inc. And he did this while he was battling cancer! He employed people who had passion and worked hard, persevering to the end.
b. Think fresh, think new!
Steve Jobs had a deep knowledge and understanding of the technology he was immersed in, and although it was not that of his engineers, it was enough to assess what was technologically possible and combined with a visionary gift he was able to create so many amazing products. He understood better than most people in the world, the power of innovation, which he used well to build companies to market leadership. He believed that people with a broad set of life experiences can often see things that others miss. He took calligraphy classes that didn’t have any practical use in his life — until he built the Macintosh. Jobs traveled to India and Asia. He studied design and hospitality. He did not live in a bubble – he connected ideas from different fields – always in alignment with his mission and that kept him ahead of the pack. What set him apart was his extraordinary ability to convert his ideas, his expert knowledge and his technical experience into useful products – he never stopped until he died. Steve Jobs’ impact on our life cannot be overestimated; his innovations have likely touched nearly every aspect — computers, movies, music and mobile. He hired people who were able to constantly come up with new ideas, new initiatives, who were creative and able to connect diverse things.
c. Master your message, master your audience!
Steve Jobs hired the best talent, engaged them and focused them to excel. He motivated and inspire them to execute his vision by his incredible communication skills. As the world’s greatest corporate storyteller, instead of simply delivering a presentation like most people do, he told a story that was unforgettable in its simplicity. He chose to inform, to educate, to inspire and to entertain, presenting his insanely different experiences to enrich lives by connecting them emotionally to the Apple brand, so masterfully that he was able to confound employees and audiences to buy what he was selling. Like an evangelist, he created stories in our heads, using metaphors and analogies to explain the advantages of his products. His charisma, his uncanny ability to influence, enabled him to whip up the enthusiasm of his employees to achieve more by doing seemingly impossible tasks, and also convince customers to buy Apple products. He hired people who were in tune with their emotions, who knew how to plug into the needs of others, people who understood minimalist elegance.
d. Believe in yourself, believe in your dreams!
Steve Jobs had a great personal philosophy – don’t waste your limited time on earth living someone else’s life. He warned graduates “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 the 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.” As a passionate, persistent, visionary with a missionary’s zeal, he was the best example for his philosophy, until he died. His dream was to put ‘a dent in the universe’ and he did! In fact he put in a few – ipod, itunes, ipad, iphone, imac…… He once asked then-Pepsi President, John Sculley, “Do you want to spend your life selling sugar water or do you want to change the world?” Jobs was in the business of selling dreams, not products, by capturing our imagination, our hopes, and our ambitions, he helped us reach our dreams and in the process he made us his for life. He hired people that had great dreams and aspirations to change the world, people who were a little crazy.
There’s one story that I think sums up Jobs’ philosophy of life. An executive who had the job of reinventing the Disney Store once called up Jobs and asked for advice. His counsel – dream bigger. I think that’s the best advice he could leave us with. See genius in your craziness, believe in yourself, believe in your vision, and be constantly prepared to defend those ideas.
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career, vision, work, communication, steve jobs,