Written by Tom Morris
Jobs, the first of two major motion pictures on the life of Steve Jobs, is now playing at your local theater. The second that will appear soon promises to be more innovative and accurate, but the current biopic is already getting people to talk again about the legendary founder of Apple. And these conversations are generating insights we can use.
Steve started out as the quintessential California Hippie, with bare feet, long hair, hallucinogenic drugs, and a fascination for all things Zen, who believed that the right diet would grant him an exemption from the time consuming activity of taking a bath. And yet, as we know, against all odds, and despite a great many personal flaws and idiosyncrasies, he became the pioneering business visionary of our era and a hugely accomplished leader, ending up nearly in a class by himself. The real story of how he did it can now spark people and companies across all industries to new levels of achievement.
- Jobs had a big vision for his work that he communicated with enthusiasm. A friend of mine who was his direct report for many years says that his ambition for “making a dent in the universe” inspired everyone around him. Because products were more important than profits, because the vision came first, and money came second, there came to be a lot of money. When people feel their work matters, they can do great things and produce incredible results.
- Jobs had a passion for the customer that created in him a near mania for simplicity and beauty. He wanted to “wow” people with great, elegant products. Customer satisfaction was never enough. He aimed at nothing less than delight and amazement. That’s why he got it.
- He was always focused on doing a few things superbly, rather than many things well. You can be good at lots of things, but “insanely great” at only a few. He taught his people the power of saying “no” to anything that didn’t directly support the main mission they were on together.
- Learning to say “no” is important. Learning not to accept “no” from others may be even more vital. Steve Jobs succeeded in world-changing ways because he refused to cave in when a supplier said “no” or an engineer said, “impossible.” His resilience and drive and determination overcame barriers in nearly magical ways.
Steve Jobs balanced the big picture and the small details. He taught people to take responsibility for what they were doing, and for the processes they were engaged in, end-to-end. He insisted they perform at a heroic level every day, in the company of other heroes – because those were the only people he would hire. No average work ethic was tolerated. And from the fertile soil of a great vision motivating great people, great things happened.
It’s astonishing what vision, simplicity, focus, and determination can accomplish when people are led to believe that their work is special. Those are a few of the central things we can learn from the legacy of the one hippie who did manage to change the world.