RSS Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs

I recently read an interesting article concerning the late Steve Jobs. The article, written by Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, provides vivid examples that demonstrate why and how Jobs became so successful.

We’ve all heard or read stories about Jobs’ personality and the extreme emotionalism he brought to everyday life. In today’s blog post, I want to share with you the leadership tenets that Jobs embraced, and hold them up as best practices.

  • Focus – “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do!”
  • Simplify – “It takes a lot of hard work to make something simple, to truly understand the underlying challenges and come up with elegant solutions.”
  • Put Products Before Profits – “My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products.”
  • Don’t Be A Slave To Focus Groups – “Caring deeply about what customers want is much different from continually asking them what they want. Intuition is a very powerful thing – more powerful than intellect.”
  • Tolerate Only “A” Players – “Prevent ‘the bozo explosion’ in which managers are so polite that mediocre people feel comfortable sticking around. If you have very good people, you don’t have to baby them.”
  • Engage Face-To-Face – “Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. I want to hash things out at a table, without a formal agenda.”

While there are several other tenets Isaacson refers to in his leadership exposé on Jobs (such as “take responsibility end-to-end,” “when behind, leapfrog,” and “stay hungry, stay foolish”), I want to end my post by sharing a brief story about Jobs that I find to be personally inspirational. I hope you feel the same way.

“One day, Jobs marched into the cubicle of Larry Kenyon, the engineer who was working on the Macintosh operating system, and complained that it was taking too long to boot up. Kenyon started to explain why reducing the boot-up time was impossible, but Jobs cut him off. ‘If it would save a person’s life, could you find a way to shave 10 seconds off the boot time?’  Kenyon allowed that he probably could. Jobs went to a whiteboard and showed that if five million people were using the Mac and it took 10 seconds extra to turn it on, that added up to 300 million or so hours per year, the equivalent of 100 lifetimes. After a few weeks, Kenyon had the machine booting up 28 seconds faster.”

As I have previously shared, leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, raising a person’s performance to a higher standard, and building a personality beyond its normal limitations. If you take to heart the leadership lessons above and execute them, I have no doubt that you will create real value for your organization.

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2 Responses to “Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs”

  1. Joshua Samples says:

    Hi Mitch,

    I have a question in regards “tolerate only “A” players”. In this leadership lesson, we obviously want to work with, recruit, and attract the very best employees. The stronger the players inside the company, the stronger the company becomes.

    However, what happens when you are leading less than an “A” player? Does a leader try to mold that person in to an “A” player? If so, what actions should that leader take when he or she tries to mold that individual? I am just curious, and I would love your input.


    Joshua Samples

  2. Mitch says:

    Thank you for your great question, Joshua. I think it depends on why a particular employee may be underachieving. Is it because they lack the requisite skills, or because they lack the motivation? Do they have the capacity and desire to achieve at a higher level, or not? Will they accept your coaching and change performance, or keep doing what they’ve always done? I think if you can answer those questions, you’ll know whether or not to invest time educating them on ways to enhance their performance.

    Because leaders don’t have unlimited time to get everyone to perform at higher levels, it’s easiest to coach those who have want to excel and be an “A” player. Generally speaking, these are individuals who have demonstrated both initiative and a desire to get better. To me, an “A” player possesses all of the positive attributes I’ve described above, but they also leave their ego at the door. They know how their skills benefit the team, and they know how to put them to their highest and best use.

    Good luck in your leadership pursuits. I hope this response is helpful!


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Home About Archive Mitch HagstromMitch Hagstrom
Executive Vice President
Chief Banking Officer
Pacific Continental Bank

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