What We Can Learn from Steve Jobs

To some, he’s the tech guru and business leader who changed our lives but to others, he’s seen as a bit of a bully who didn’t feel he needed to follow any rules. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but it’s hard to get an idea of the real Steve Jobs. 

Like the other features in this series, I’ll break it down into ‘the good’ and then ‘the bad’ before working out what's important.

The Good

Whatever you think of Steve Jobs, it’s very clear that he saved Apple when he returned and was a very charismatic leader. He was also an accomplished presenter and communicator, so anyone who ever speaks in public should watch some of his keynote speeches. He literally changed the way that technology products are marketed and made millions of people desperate to own his products.

He inspired people to deliver their absolute best and the culture he created is clearly reflected in the amazing products Apple introduced. It was all about design and the user experience, and this really made a difference.

It would be hard to claim that Steve Jobs wasn’t passionate. He clearly wasn’t in business to simply line his pockets and I think it’s clear that he genuinely believed in his work. We can all learn something from this and bring a lot of passion to everything we do.

He also encouraged us to ‘think different’ and work to ‘make a dent in the universe’. His approach towards making the best product possible is also hard to ignore, so we should all think about how we could improve things in our own lives with this type of approach.

I think it’s fair to say that few people forgot Steve Jobs, but this may not have been for the right reasons as we’re about to find out.

The Bad

I think the fact that Steve Jobs had the audacity to tell people they were ‘holding the iPhone 4 wrong’ when they found a serious design defect (that removed the signal) says a lot. The more you learn about him, the more it appears that he seemed to think he was exempt from the normal rules of society.

From parking in disabled bays to throwing iPod concepts that didn’t meet his expectations into fish bowls, it’s clear that he felt he was entitled to behave this way to achieve his objectives. 

There are plenty of accounts of him being rude to people as well and literally blowing up when things didn’t go the way he wanted. It’s also likely that he was happy to take credit for things he may not have been directly involved with.

If you look at his time at Pixar, it’s clear that they were successful after they effectively sidelined him and kept him away from the creative process. He cut the deals that mattered, but they created the iconic characters and movies.

In short, Steve Jobs probably isn’t someone you should inspire to be. Few organisations would tolerate his type of approach and it would be very hard to get into a position where you could effectively lead people like this.

Steve Jobs presenting

What’s Important

I think Steve Jobs is a great example that few people are perfect. Jobs clearly wasn’t happy with himself at times and was probably not someone you’d like to be. Was this the price you have to pay for that type of success though, and was it necessary to get things done?

I think we can actually learn as much from his mistakes as we can from his approach.

It’s clear that he achieved a lot and that he was well respected, but it wasn’t always easy for him. You could even argue that he created a lot of these problems himself and was perhaps his own worst enemy.

He has left an amazing legacy though, and made a huge impact on the world. Even if you’re not a fan of Apple, and don’t use their products or services, it’s a safe bet that the technology you do use wouldn’t be the same without Steve Jobs. I think it's also safe to say that he made a 'dent in the universe' as well.

Image: Steve Jobs Headshot 2010-CROP' by Matt Yohe licensed under CC BY 2.0