A is for ‘Apple’… and some other words too

I have just finished Steve Job’s bio on the Kindle and I’m thinking ‘Apple’ isn’t the only ‘A’ word you would associate with this guy.

There is no question that he was a unique individual and has been responsible for changing the face of tech all over the world, but man at what cost?… Most high flying leaders / entrepreneurs have their foibles and most high achievers tend to be highly task oriented, with the best developing good people skills to compensate for their innate lack. If the bio is to believed then Jobs was self aware enough to realise he was inept with people and lacked these skills, but also sufficiently narcissistic to see no reason to change.

After reading the bio I find myself puzzled at the huge outpouring of grief when he died. I’m guessing most people were mourning the loss of a creative entrepreneurial mind. Perhaps people were grieving that their gadgets would never have quite the same fizz as they did when Jobs was alive.

I wonder if the response would have been so prolific if people had been privy to the more private details of his life and relationships where he vacillated between being a charming saleman and an obnoxious tyrant who used people to get what he wanted?

As a person Steve Jobs was a self confessed ‘asshole’ – a word he uses to describe himself at least twice in the book. But as an entrepreneur / visionary he was a genuis!

I learnt a heap from reading his story. I admired his ability to focus and discern what mattered – what would really put Apple on the map and then to go after those things with tenacity. I saw his very intentional way of setting a culture and not being at all ambiguous about it. I reckon this is a key element of his success. It was his way or the highway and because he was so gifted ‘his way’ usually worked. I found this helpful in reflecting on my own business and it has caused me to make some changes to ensure my culture remains intact.

I was impressed by his commitment to perfection (even if I would never wish to emulate it) and his vision of art and technology coming together in his products. I have to admit that the apple products are genuinely attractive items and seem to have the edge on their competitors in that area.

His ‘reality distortion field’ was both a gift and a nemesis. Had he been able to listen to the doctors a bit better he may still be here, but by the same token his ability to ‘believe the impossible’ seemed to be the catalyst for many of Apple’s achievements.

I found it intriguing watching Apple go from being the renegade / rebel outfit to being ‘the man’ and observing how he navigated that. The contrast between the original 1984 TV ad playing on ‘Big Brother’ and who Apple are now is interesting and could suggest they have lost their original DNA. Rather than being the ones who challenge the system, they are now the ones running the institution, gathering the data on people and controlling what they watch / read etc. (Jobs did have veto power on apps and their content)

Jobs cites his vision as that of ‘changing the world’, and I guess he has changed it. I don’t think he would ever rate alongside William Wilberforce or MLK, but he has definitely left a mark. He has found his way into our home and I would never have thought that likely. The turning point was the iphone. When I saw my mate Phil’s iPhone during a trip to Vic I thought ‘I’d like one of them!’ and since getting it I have never considered ever returning to Nokia. For me the iPhone is the genius of Apple, as it so versatile.

I write this on a Macbook and while its a good laptop I am still adapting to Steve’s way of doing things and it is taking a while. I’m sure Steve knows best, but I have been around Bill a long time… We also won an iPad that Jobs regarded as his primo achievement, but I can’t see it as such a valuable tool. I pick it up occasionally, but it seems like a big iPhone equivalent or a laptop with some features disabled…

From a leadership perspective there is much to learn from Jobs, some good and some ‘how not to’s’, but that has been good too. If you want to read the story of an intriguing man and the story of the Apple corp then you’ll enjoy the book.

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