Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson has written an exceptional essay for the Harvard Business Review, in which he shares some thoughts on Steve Jobs, and a number of powerful leadership lessons that can be learned from the way Steve Jobs conducted business.
I can think of few people better than Steve Jobs to learn about leadership from. He was an incredible leader with a unique management style, and one of the most successful businessmen of all time. Here are some of the main points in Isaacson’s essay:
Isaacson points out Steve Jobs’ incredible emphasis on focus – producing a limited number of products, and producing them extremely well. Rather than producing multiple versions of the same product (as Microsoft does with MS Office and Windows), Steve Jobs simplified Apple’s product lineup with solutions that would work for all groups of people. He also recalls a discussion that Jobs had with Google chair Larry Page:
The main thing I stressed was focus,” he recalled. Figure out what Google wants to be when it grows up, he [Steve Jobs] told Page. “It’s now all over the map. What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they’re dragging you down. They’re turning you into Microsoft. They’re causing you to turn out products that are adequate but not great.”
This one is huge for Apple. Take the iPad, for instance. Rather than releasing a complex and “full-featured” tablet that ran the desktop version of OS X, Steve Jobs created the iPad – a tablet with a much simpler customer experience that appealed to more users.
Simplicity and minimalism have always been hallmarks of Apple’s designs, which is one of the reasons their products sell so well. Anyone can use them.
Put Products Before Profits
Making money should not be the main goal of any company (although it is important in the end). Instead, by focusing specifically and carefully on the products and all of their details, and settling for nothing less than a quality product with a fantastic user experience, the profits will take care of themselves.
Push for Perfection
In Steve Jobs eyes, “pretty good” was simply not good enough. One of the things that set Steve Jobs apart, and in turn, Apple as a company, was that he didn’t settle. When he had a vision for a product, that vision was executed perfectly and exactly. Steve Jobs was not willing to tolerate shortcuts. Isaacson argues that his obsession with perfection, down to the last detail, was a major factor in his success.
Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish
This slogan, uttered by Steve Jobs in the commencement address he presented at Stanford in 2005, was a strong element in his personal belief system. This section wraps up all of Isaacson’s points, while pointing out the importance of following your dreams and not letting others tell you how to live your life.
This is only a small sample of the powerful points made in Isaacson’s article, which I highly recommend you read all the way through for yourself. It contains a total of 14 powerful lessons (and probably more if you “read between the lines), filled with all manner of wise observations made from Steve Jobs extraordinary life.