Edit: We wrote a super in-depth 3-part series about Steve Jobs, his innovation and leadership. Check it out here.
Steve Jobs was the co-founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Apple, and arguably one of the world’s most successful and innovative businessmen. Apple’s creations like the MacBook, the iPod and the iPhone revolutionized the consumer electronics industry and changed the way we use technology in our daily lives.
A Short Biography
Adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs, Steve Jobs was born in San Francisco on February 24th, 1955. He attended Homestead High School in California and often went to the after-school lectures organized by the Hewlett-Packard Company. It was there that he met his eventual business partner, Steve Wozniak.
Jobs had his early beginnings at Atari, working as a technician building circuit boards. In 1976, he started Apple with Steve Wozniak, with funding from a millionaire investor.
In 1984, Apple developed the Macintosh, the first small computer with a graphic interface. It had the potential to revolutionize the whole personal computer industry. However, poor business decisions and conflict with the CEO would eventually cause Jobs to be forced out of his own company in 1985.
Jobs went on to start two other companies: NeXT and Pixar. Pixar was eventually acquired by the Disney Company and NeXT was acquired by Apple.
After the acquisitions, Jobs returned to Apple in 1996 as interim CEO. The development of the iMac marked the beginning of the second rise of Apple. Jobs emphasized innovation and simplicity, qualities that would drive the creation of iconic Apple products such as the iPod and iPhone. Jobs valued both form and function, and the popularity of Apple products revolutionized the mobile phone and consumer electronics industries. Under his leadership, Apple became a force to be reckoned with.
Although Jobs was diagnosed with cancer in 2003, he continued to be at the helm of Apple. He needed a liver transplant, and took a leave of absence in January 2009. On October 5th, 2011, he died of respiratory arrest, related to the metastatic tumor.
Awards and Honours
- Most Powerful Person in Business by Fortune Magazine in 2007
- National Medal of Technology in 1985
- Samuel S. Beard Award in 1987
Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs
1. Persistence is key
Jobs was incredibly persistent. This trait was most exemplified in his exit from Apple in 1985. He didn’t give up, and instead went on to start NeXT, which was eventually acquired by Apple. Being ousted from Apple was a big blow to his confidence, but Jobs knew that he had to move on to his next venture.
Many people in his position would have given up and spent years being bitter about being kicked out of a company they founded. Instead, Jobs’ success with NeXT brought him back to the doors of Apple in 1996.
In business and in life, you have to be ready to face setbacks. They are a part of the journey, and your ultimate success or failure often hinges on your ability not to give up. Your tenacious attitude will trickle down to your team and inspire them to work through any challenges they face when working to achieve their goals.
2. Innovation brings leadership
Jobs recognized the power of innovation. He valued simplicity and wanted to create beautiful products and an excellent user experience. His vision changed the way Apple operated and had a massive impact on how we use technology today.
To maintain your leadership status in your industry, be the one who’s constantly coming up with new ideas and initiatives in the spirit of moving your organizational mission forward. Whatever industry you’re in, your constant innovation in alignment with your mission will keep you ahead of the pack.
3. The Power of presentations
Steve Jobs is widely acknowledged as one of the great presenters of his generation, and possibly the best corporate ‘storyteller’ of all time. He knew how to create a villain for his supporters to rally against (Microsoft), how to sell benefits (not features) and tell stories that would make his products come to life in the minds of potential buyers.
Having great presentation skills can act like rocket fuel for your leadership ‘career’. If you study the greats (like Jobs) and spend time practicing and honing your speaking skills, you’ll never be out of work. Joining an organization like Toastmasters — a worldwide, not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping its members improve their public speaking abilities — can help set you up for success.
Books about Steve Jobs
An immensely comprehensive, thoroughly researched and well-written biography by Walter Isaacson brings us a candid and detailed overview of Steve Jobs’ captivating life. Read the worldwide bestseller which inspired the major motion picture Steve Jobs.
With a parallel overview of the evolution of computers, Karen Blumenthal follows the extraordinary journey of the genius behind Apple. From his parents’ garage to the forefront of technology, Steve Jobs pushed the limits of success in every way.
Breaking down all the stereotypes, myths and stories surrounding Steve Jobs, Brent Schlender managed to create a uniquely insightful book about one of the greatest minds in modern history. Examine the visionary behind some of the most coveted products around the world.
Quotes from Steve Jobs
It took us three years to build the NeXT computer. If we’d given customers what they said they wanted, we’d have built a computer they’d have been happy with a year after we spoke to them – not something they’d want now.
A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets.
Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.
You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.
I want to put a ding in the universe.
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
Pretty much, Apple and Dell are the only ones in this industry making money. They make it by being Wal-Mart. We make it by innovation.
Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
The people who are doing the work are the moving force behind the Macintosh. My job is to create a space for them, to clear out the rest of the organization and keep it at bay.
To turn really interesting ideas and fledgling technologies into a company that can continue to innovate for years, it requires a lot of disciplines.
Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.
I think we’re having fun. I think our customers really like our products. And we’re always trying to do better.
Steve Jobs Leadership Video
Watch Steve Jobs’ famous commencement speech at Stanford in 2005.
Sources and Further Reading
If you liked this leader profile, be sure to check out our much more in-depth, 3-part series on Steve Jobs:
Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish: Leadership Lessons From Steve Jobs Part 1
Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish: Leadership Lessons From Steve Jobs Part 2
Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish: Leadership Lessons From Steve Jobs Part 3
More Business Leader Profiles
For leadership profiles of other famous business leaders, including Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, and Warren Buffett, check out our Business Leadership Profiles section.