All entries for Tuesday 26 March 2013

March 26, 2013

HBR on leadership lessons to be learnt from Steve Jobs

I came across this Harvard Business Review article on "The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs". It's written by Walet Isaacson, who has written biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs, and I found it to be a highly captivating reading (although I don't necessarily agree with all his points).

The author argues that there are 14 points behind Jobs’s approach (I don't know why but for some reason everyone seems to prefer a list of 14 points now..maybe it's due to Deming setting the benchmark with his 14 points). Anyway, here they are:

1) Focus

2) Simplify

3) Take responsibility end to end

4) When behind, leapfrog

5) Put products before profits

6) Don’t be a slave to focus groups

7) Bend reality

8) Impute

9) Push for perfection

10) Know both the big picture and the details

11) Tolerate only “A” players (highly controversial*)

12) Engage face-to-face

13) Combine the humanities with the sciences; and finally

14 Stay hungry, stay foolish

The complete article can be accessed at:

Should we aspire to lead like Steve Jobs?

Imagine if instead of learning how to become effective leaders on LE, we were all taught how to lead the Steve Jobs way. How many of us would sign up for such a module? Since a huge proportion of people in the class own at least one apple product, I am assuming most of us would have happily taken up that module too.

Here's the thing, most of us as future leaders would be thrilled to achieve what Steve Jobs did. However, should we aspire to lead like him?

Before we can really answer that, it's worth digging up a bit and finding what he really was like as a leader. We all know he was dynamic and at times controversial. He is often praised as a larger than life leader, a sort of leader that the Great Man theory tries to explain, but does the evidence stack up? Job was certainly driven as a leader and he achieved huge successes for his company, but identifying anyone's leadership style is a complex thing. Most people would describe him as a charismatic leader, who was committed and confident to make radical changes rather than small incremental improvements. However, he was also impatient, stubborn and even cruel at times. He was definitely demanding of his maybe the servant leadership model cannot explain his type. Above all, he knew how to deliver a winning strategy and a great vision.

So the question is if we try to emulate these traits (good as well as bad ones), will we get the results that he got? In my opinion, No! There are so many other factors at play, not least the group members and the specific situation. So, we as aspiring leaders of future can certainly learn a lot from Steve Jobs, but we should be careful and not try to emulate all of it.

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