Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Be Humble & Celebrate Your Team: I-Leadership

 Since Steve Jobs announced that he is stepping down as CEO of Apple; stories, videos, collection of quotes, and whatnot are circulating around the web celebrating his reign as arguably the most inventive and creative leader of one of the most successful companies in the world. Especially popular is the 2005 commencement speech Jobs delivered at Stanford. My favorite excerpt from that speech:
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

Essentially Steve was relating to the graduates that if you do what you love, you should not fear failure, it is part of the process of learning. However, my personal favorite Steve Jobs clip showed up in my G+ stream this morning. It is Steve Jobs at the WWDC conference in 1997. Jobs is back at Apple, and charged with bringing it back to life. No mean feat, especially after the failure of NeXT. An audience member questions Steve's ability to lead and calls him out on his lack of technical expertise [boy, I bet that guy feels like a jerk now]. There is a long painful pause and then Jobs rises from his stool,  almost like a down and out fighter, to reply to the smarmy, insulting questions. Steve Jobs is one of the smartest people I know and he has a wicked sense of humor so no doubt he could have squashed this fellow like a bug. Instead, Steve Jobs demonstrated the following leadership lessons:
  • Great leaders rise to the occasion (demonstrating restraint, class, and thoughtfulness).
  • Great leaders are humble about what they don't know and confident about what they do know.
  • Great leaders support and empower their team. They recognize what they are capable of and get out of their way.
  • Great leaders know it is NOT all about them. Jobs mentioned folks by name and celebrated their contributions to Apple.
  • Great leaders admit when they are wrong. 
  • Great leaders are candid and engaging.
  • Great leaders are  visionary and "get it" [new vision for Apple: it's about the consumer experience, not the tech] 
  • Great leaders are passionate about what they believe in and they invite you to follow them on that journey

And to you Steve Jobs, may God watch over you and your family. Yes, you have given us great products over the years and changed immeasurably how we interact with technology, but more importantly, you have give us endless inspiration, increased our aspirations, and generously shared your hard won life lessons. You have given us the ability to connect with each other in ways that I believe have far greater implications which we will probably not realize for another decade. So thank you Steve Jobs for your courage, vision and your heart. You taught me the most important lesson of all, don't let failure shape your life, instead let the architecture be the lessons you learn---and never be afraid to share those lessons. Thank you, Steve.