Friday marked one year since Steve Jobs death and, not surprisingly, it provoke commentary and thought about the man, his leadership style and the future of Apple. Initially, I was not going to blog about Steve because I considered that there were plenty of others to do so. However, an article/blog did catch my eye and generate a bit of thought. Kathryn Cave, Editor, IDG Connect authored an article “Steve Jobs: The Model of Inspirational Leadership”. She makes some very good points regarding Job’s methods, passion and, of course, ultimately successful leadership style. However, I do not enthusiastically endorse his style for most business leaders.
Having read Job’s biography by Walter Isaacson, I can categorically state that few individuals on the planet should emulate his style. For those of you who have not read the biography, Steve was arrogant, selfish, abusive and a perfectionist. His success was due to a myriad of factors that were unique to him, amongst them, a passion for design and the belief that things should “just work”. But his management style would have been unsuccessful if he had not been, in a word, a genius.
Steve’s management style worked because he was able to produce results. He pushed his teams to pursue goals that were beyond ones they would have established on their own. Steve’s management style would have met with defeat if in the hands of lesser leaders.
Therefore, the real takeaway regarding his style is to understand what elements of his thinking can be applied to your unique personality. I concluded from the biography, that when people are led to go beyond their perceived limits AND they meet with success, they respect their leaders more. George Bush would have been better served as a leader not to ask us to go shopping after 9/11 but ask us instead to become engaged in rebuilding our psyche and contributing our time and efforts to community outreach or charity. We remember leaders like Lincoln, Churchill, Kennedy and others, not for their management styles, but for their brilliant minds and the ability to create for us new levels of achievement.
To truly inspire involves risk. Jobs succeeded and failed spectacularly. An inspirational leader acknowledges the risk but pursues the objective anyway by taking point and responsibility for any failure. Failure is never a desired option but with risk there is always the potential. Overcoming the risk delivers great satisfaction for the team as a whole.