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Essay: Steve Jobs: A Legend of Inspiration and Authentic Leadership

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  • Published: 1 April 2019*
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  • Words: 1,611 (approx)
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  • Tags: Apple essays

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“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who usually do.” – Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, a name that is known by billions. A man who changed the world of technology. His work throughout his short lived life was revolutionary. A name that will be forever lived on through his company, Apple.

 Steve Jobs was born on February 24, 1955 in San Francisco, California. He was born out of wedlock so his parents were forced to give him up for adoption, therefore he was adopted by the Jobs family under the condition that they would put him through college. When the time for college came, Steve chose the very fancy Reed College which was a private liberal arts college in Oregon. His parents keeping up their promise put almost their entire life savings into their son’s education but he only stayed in college for a couple months.

Desperate for money, he got a job at Atari in 1974. Atari is allegedly the first video game company. The founder of Atari, Nolon Bushell was a great influence for Jobs and served as his inspiration to start Apple. In order to start Apple, Steve and his partner Steve Wozniak needed a $1000. For this Steve sold his Volkswagen van and his partner his HP-64 calculator. Apple came about in 1976, in Steve’s parents garage. From there, it became the ginormous company it is today. He started a college dropout and running a company in parent’s garage but went on to transforming seven industries personal computing, animated movies, music, tablet computing, phones, retail stores, and digital publishing. He truly does belong in the list of America’s greatest innovators.

Steve Jobs is a great example of an authentic leader. An important question is what is an authentic leader? As defined by Wikipedia, an approach to leadership that emphasizes building the leader’s legitimacy through honest relationships with followers which value their input and are built on an ethical foundation. There are many characteristics that make an authentic leader. An authentic leader needs to be self-aware and genuine, they need to be leaders who are aware of their strengths, weaknesses, and limitations and they are not afraid to explore their life stories and crucibles. Authentic leaders are mission driven and focused on results, they put the company over their self-interest. Integrity is an important aspect for them. These types of leaders lead with their heart, not just with their minds. They focus on the long-term and on insight. They understand the importance of demonstrating initiative and are very influential. Besides being influential, they are impactful.

As I mentioned before, an authentic leader is self-aware and genuine. A leader in this category always shows his real self, they do not act one way in public and another in private, their weaknesses and mistakes are never hidden out of fear of seeming weak. Steve Jobs fits in to this category because his personality was an important aspect of his leadership. He integrated his own self in everything business related. He acted in a way which fronted that normal rules do not apply to him. The emotionalism he had in everyday life was also incorporated in all his products.

During a speech Steve Jobs gave at a Stanford University Commencement, he started off with a statement that shocked his audience. “This is the closest I have gotten to a college graduation.” he said and then proceeded to talk about why he dropped out of college. Students were shocked, they expected Steve Jobs to discuss his successes, not his failures. An important feature for an authentic leader is to be self-aware and to be able to speak openly about themselves to others

Authentic leaders are mission driven and focused on results. This type of a leader does his or her job with the intention of bettering it, not because of power, money, or ego. Steve Jobs, in 1997 returned to Apple to save it from bankruptcy yet again. At that time, Apple was producing a randomized collection of computers, which included a bunch of different versions of Macintosh. After reviewing these products for a few weeks, Steve stopped everything. He drew a simple grid with four sections, he gave each section a name, consumer, pro, desktop, and portable. He told his team that their job was to focus on four great products which focuses on these four categories. He canceled are the other products that were due for production. By taking this step, he saved Apple. He was famous for his laser-like focus. According to Steve Jobs and his Zen-philosophy, “Deciding what to do is just as important as deciding what to do.”

Shortly before his death, he was visited by the co-founder of Google, Larry Page. He came with the intention of asking Jobs for some advice since he was about to resume control of Google. Jobs great advice was for him to figure out the five best products Google should focus on and “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.” In January 2012, Page followed his advice, announcing to all his employees that they should “focus on just a few priorities, and make them “beautiful,” the way Jobs would have done.

A good leader has a special connection with his employees. Although, he was known to be a toughie, he always motivated his employees to reach perfection. A great example is the iPhone. The original design of the iPhone features a glass screen set into an aluminum case. One Monday morning, he went up to Jonathan Ive, the industrial designer of Apple, and said “I didn’t sleep last night”, “because I realized that I just don’t love it.” Ive, immediately saw what Jobs meant and agreed that he was right. The whole device felt to masculine. Jobs went up to Ive’s team and gave the following speech. “Guys, you’ve killed yourselves over this design for the last nine months, but we’re going to change it,” Jobs told Ive’s team. “We’re all going to have to work nights and weekends, and if you want, we can hand out some guns so you can kill us now.” Instead of recoiling, the team agreed. “It was one of my proudest moments at Apple,” Jobs recalled. Moments like this depict the atmosphere of Apple. It didn’t matter that they worked nine months on a product, if it wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t going to be put out for sale.

He was known to be very tough, impatient, and petulant but that all came from his passion for perfection and his desire to work with the best people. He once said “if something sucks, I tell people to their face. It’s my job to be honest.” An interviewer asked him once if he could get the same results if he was a bit nicer, he answered maybe so “but it is not who I am”. This is another example of his self-awareness. At the end of the day, his employees could have gone to other companies and held high positions of power there but they chose to stay and remain loyal to the Apple family.

Something that Jobs and Apple did that was not done by many companies was take end to end responsibility for user experience. Every aspect of customer experience, from performance to the act of buying a product at the Apple store was closely knit together. Jobs believed if he did not ensure perfection people would go on to using other “crappier products.” “People are busy,” he said. “They have other things to do than think about how to integrate their computers and devices.”

The reason why Jobs was so determined to take responsibility for “the whole widget” came from his personality, which according to many people was very controlling, and his passion for perfection and elegance in a product. This sometimes would mean no short-term profits but as long as it meant a perfect product Jobs was satisfied.

Which brings me to another trait shared by Authentic leaders and Steve Jobs, products over profits. From the beginning, when Jobs began designing the very first Mac computer, he wanted to make the best product. He never mentioned profits. “Don’t worry about price, just specify the computer’s abilities,” he told the original team leader. His moto was focus on making the product great and the profits will follow.

What stands out about Jobs was that he was not marketing his products, he was marketing his values and the core values of his company. In one of his presentations on marketing core values, Steve Jobs talks about how marketing is not about advertising features and speeds and megabytes or comparing yourself to the other guys, it's about singling out your own story, your own core, and being absolutely clear about what you are all about and what you stand for and then being able to communicate that clearly, simply, and consistently. As Steve Jobs so brilliantly says, “a lot of things have changed, markets a totally different place than it was years ago, manufacturing….values and core values should never change.”

We see this great example of marketing with the Think Different commercial of Apple. Steve Jobs honored many great leaders and brought up a very important point "We believe people with passion can change the world for the better….and that those people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who actually do.”

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