Steve Jobs’ leadership style helped him to build one of the most successful tech firms in the world—but he couldn’t have done it by himself.
- Steve Jobs is one of the most respected and emulated leaders in modern tech. Before his death in 2011, he was regarded as one of the leading minds in the world, beloved for his work, and well-known as the face of Apple. To this day, Silicon Valley tries to emulate the success and popularity he created.
- But he did not work alone. He worked in a team that helped him wrestle with challenging ideas and ensure that he was kept accountable for the ideas you moved forward with.
- “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do,” said Jobs.
Why it’s Important
As Inc. notes, it is tempting to look at a leader and praise him for his positive traits—“Confidence, Vision, Strategy,” etc. But those traits alone aren’t enough to succeed. Jobs was interviewed about what made his company successful by Fortune senior editor Betsy Morris shortly before his passing. He credited his success to the team that worked with him, pushed him, and suggested new ideas.
“So when a good idea comes, you know, part of my job is to move it around, just see what different people think, get people talking about it, argue with people about it, get ideas moving among that group of 100 people, get different people together to explore different aspects of it quietly, and, you know, just explore things,” says Jobs.
Jobs was well known for his ego and his brash interactions with his employees. He wasn’t always right about everything. He made mistakes that resulted in him being thrown out of Apple in 1985. He was well aware though that he was nothing without the minds of the people that helped him innovate and grow Apple into the organization it would become.
“Nobody had ever thought about putting operating systems as sophisticated as [iPhone’s operating system] inside a phone, so that was a real question. We had a big debate inside the company whether we could do that or not. And that was one where I had to adjudicate it and just say, ‘We’re going to do it. Let’s try.’ The smartest software guys were saying they can do it, so let’s give them a shot. And they did,” says Jobs.
“Steve Jobs taught leaders an important lesson: to recognize that each team member plays a pivotal role in the overarching success of the business. What this means is that leaders must put themselves in the precarious position of letting their ideas be challenged by anybody in the organization. It should be a cultural expectation as the pathway to grow faster,” says Inc.