I read with amazement this morning, an article on Harvard Business Review about Steve Jobs. Bill Taylor recognizes the impact of what Jobs has done over his career, but cautions about following in the man’s footsteps. “Steve Jobs represents the face of business at its best,” says Taylor. “And yet, in terms of his approach to leadership, Jobs represents the face of business — well, if not at its worst, then certainly not as something worth emulating.”
I read “The Second Coming of Steve Jobs” when it first came out and I liked Steve’s style even more after reading it than I did before. The stories were sometimes brutal, but that’s Steve’s personality. He gets things done his way.
Taylor says that Jobs “clings to the Great Man Theory of Leadership.” Well, yes I suppose he does. Because unlike anyone in business today, Jobs is able to cut through the nonsense and bring together some of the greatest engineers and executives in the world to make some amazing products.
Do you really think that the people on Apple’s executive team would stick around if they didn’t believe what Jobs was doing was revolutionary? I have no doubt that Steve can make their lives a living hell, but they are some of the most successful executives in the industry today. They could easily run most other companies, but they choose to stay with Steve and Apple.
If more leaders had the “Great Man Theory of Leadership” perhaps Jobs would have some competition, but he doesn’t.
To prove his point, Taylor quotes Jane Harper, a 30-year veteran of IBM who explains “humbition.” It is, she explains “the subtle blend of humility and ambition that drives the most successful leaders — an antidote to the know-it-all hubris that affects so many executives and entrepreneurs.”
Seriously, you are going to quote an executive of IBM on how to best run a company? Seriously? I can’t even begin to explain how wrong it is to compare IBM with Apple.
After admitting the style worked for Steve, Taylor says, “but don’t think you’ll do better as a leader by acting more like Apple’s leader. Trust the art, not the artist.”
Maybe, just maybe, if we had more leaders that were willing to stand up and make decisions, we would have better products throughout the industry, not just at Apple. Make the people that work for you want to give their best everyday, not just when they feel like it.
Instead of chiding Steve Jobs for a style that has produced some of the greatest products in the electronics industry, perhaps Taylor should look at the other executives and wonder why they are so far behind.