11th Oct 2011

The Foundations of Great Leadership

Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple in August 2011. Since his death on Thursday he has been much lauded, as a visionary, an innovator, an artist and an entrepreneur. Even his unique sartorial style was frequently noted as a reflection of his innovative intellect (well, what other CEO of such standing habitually sported jeans and a turtle neck?).

The Facts:

Apple is now worth more than Microsoft and Intel, and briefly in August, at the time of Jobs’ resignation, it was the most valuable US corporation, surpassing even ExxonMobil in net worth.

Why?

Steve Jobs made technology cool, by blending it with beauty and elegance. He gave the consumer exactly what the consumer wanted – while understanding the delicacy of their desire – that you might not know what you want until you have it in your hand.

How?

As a leader Steve Jobs had a clear vision, confidence, and was not afraid of making mistakes, and not afraid of the mistakes he had already made.

Vision, Courage, and Acceptance

In 1985 Jobs suffered a very public humiliation. He was fired from Apple, the company he had founded as a college drop-out and nurtured into a $2 billion corporation. He could have allowed this humiliation to overwhelm and deter him, at least for a time as he indulged his misgivings and doubt. But Jobs had the courage to forge ahead. He dusted off his denims and went on to create NeXT Inc., the company which would later be bought by Apple and would provide the foundation for the OX S – the software backbone for Macs.

Jobs had always wanted to change the world, and he did.

In 1996 Jobs returned to Apple. While initially taking up the position of interim CEO, he remained in the role until his resignation this year.

As we all know, he returned to a company that was floundering, and he made Apple and its products the objects of our consumer desire. Under his guidance, Apple became the leading technology brand by utterly seducing us with the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.

This took courage, confidence in his clear vision for a better, more sophisticated technology, and an ability to accept his mistakes and move on.

These are the foundations of great leadership. The marriage of these traits nurtured the force which allowed Jobs to accelerate his performance, and ultimately lead Apple to global success.

During his 2005 Stanford University Commencement address, Jobs said “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”  Wise words from a bona fide leader.

Hilda Goold

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