14 Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs

Learn 14 Leaderships Lessons and Strategies of Steve Jobs

A favorite business magazine of mine is Harvard Business Review. One of my favorite articles is, The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Walter Isaacson is the author of the best-selling biography of Steve Jobs. The book is based on more than forty interviews with Steve Jobs over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues. Over the many years since the passing of Steve Jobs, there have been hundreds maybe thousands of blogs that have been written about him. This is one of my favorite articles on Steve Jobs because of the how much time Walter Isaacson spent with him.  

Below is a summary of 14 leadership lessons of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

The Real Leadership of Lessons of Steve Jobs

Lesson #1: Focus

In 1997, after a few weeks of product review sessions, Jobs had enough. He said "Stop", he wanted Apple to focus on making just four computers and by doing so saved the company. He said, "Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do." Steve Jobs had the ability to filter out what he considered distractions.

Lesson #2: Simplify

Steve was born with the ability simplify things by zeroing in on their essence and eliminating unnecessary components. He said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Jobs aimed for simplicity that comes from conquering, rather than ignoring complexity. In looking for industries or categories ripe for disruption, Jobs always asked who was making product more complicated than it should be.

Lesson #3: Take Responsibility End to End

Jobs and Apple took end-to-end responsibility for the user experience-something few companies do. Every aspect of the customer experience was tightly linked together. He was passionate about the elegance and experience of his products. He did not want any unapproved app or content polluting the Apple ecosystem.

Lesson #4: When Behind, Leap Frog

The mark of an innovative company is not only that it comes up with new ideas first. It also knows how to leapfrog when it finds itself behind.

Lesson #5: Don't Be a Slave to Focus Groups

When Jobs took his original Macintosh team on its first retreat, something asked, "We should do some market research to see what customers want." He said, "No, because customers don't know what they want until we've shown them. He told the quote of Henry Ford, "If I'd ask customers what they wanted, they would have told me, 'A faster horse!'"

Lesson #6: Bend Reality

Steve Jobs would help his teams go from impossible to possible. Something those who worked with him called Reality Distortion. Impossible was never an answer for Steve Jobs.

Lesson #7: Impute

Steve Jobs knew that people form an opinion about a product or company on the basis of how it is presented and packaged. People do judge a book by its cover.

Lesson #8: Push for Perfection

Never settle for less. This was his rule. It had to be prefect. If it was not perfect, products were put on hold until they were.

Lesson #9: Tolerate Only "A" Players

Steve Jobs was famously impatient, petulant, and tough with the people around him. Jobs said, "I've learned over the years that when you have really good people, you don't have to baby them." Tolerate Only "A" Players.

Lesson #10: Engage Face-to-Face

Steve Jobs is a strong believer in face-to-face meetings. "No ideas can be developed by e-mail or iChat." When you talk to someone face-to-face, that is when magic happens.

Lesson #11: Know Both the Big Picture and the Details

Some CEOs are great at the vision and others are great at the details. Steve Jobs was both the vision and details.

Lesson #12: Combine the Humanities with The Sciences

He connected the humanities to the sciences, creativity to technology, arts to engineering.

Lesson #13: Put Product Before Profits

When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he shifted Apple's focus back to making innovative products. He said, "My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else is secondary."

Lesson #14: Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

You have to read his 2005 Stanford commencement speech to really understand this lesson. 

I continue to be amazed about the life of Steve Jobs. Like all of you, I am passionate about learning from the best minds in business. These 14 lessons can really inspire you as you build your dream—your business. I love those who look fear of impossible or defeat in the face and change the world.