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What Leadership lessons did Steve Jobs'​ authenticity teach us?

He was brilliant. He was visionary. He was unique. He was crazy to think he could change the world, and he did!


Steve Jobs had an impact - either directly or indirectly - on billions of lives. He created one of the most admired and valuable companies in the world and made a massive profound shift in the world of technology. Many people attribute his success to his intelligence, but there was another dimension which contributed to that tremendous success: his authenticity.


Jobs was an authentic leader. Certainly not the kind of leaders that leadership books and theories would recommend, but aside from his stormy and ruthless behaviors, there was another side to the story.


I've been reading Steve Jobs' biography by Walter Isaacson since my discussions with David Suetens, CEO of State Street Luxembourg, which triggered my interest in understanding Jobs' personality and leadership. So, I summarized what are - in my opinion - the Leadership lessons that Steve Jobs left for us to capture, explore and reflect on, quoting Jobs at each of these 9 lessons.



1- Manage Your Ego


In 1985, Jobs had the worst and most devastating experience a successful entrepreneur may ever have to live: being ousted from his own company after having given himself blood and sweat to bring it to where it was.


There is a fact that we, human beings, are naturally controlled by our pride. Nonetheless, when Jobs was asked to return to the company 12 years later as an "advisor" - because Apple desperately needed him - he did not say 'no'. He did not show an ounce of egotism despite his spectacular success with Pixar. Quite the opposite, he moved to each floor to see what people were working on, he went to his whiteboard to draw new ideas, new directions, new guidelines. He was not doing that for himself or his own success, since he was once laid off. But he was doing it for Apple's good.


Jobs had to make a few decisions while marvelously managing his ego. He rejected the board's offer to name him CEO and insisted on remaining an "advisor". He built partnerships with his rival Microsoft. He ended up accepting the CEO position when he felt that it was the right move to save the company, allowing Apple to make a U-turn with a $309 million profit after a recorded loss of $1.04 billion in 1997.


CEOs and other C-Level executives are at risk to fail to manage their ego. Generally successful and brilliant, their success may get to their head and they suddenly find themselves in a fight against their own ego. It takes a great leader to overcome their pride and egotism. And this is the foundation each of a leader's decisions has to be made on.



2- Follow Your Heart


Jobs had never cared whether people liked him or not. And this applied to his teams, peers and bosses. However, he cared about saying and doing what he believed was right. And it takes courage to do that.


We can't stress enough how much courage is crucial for leaders when it comes to making decisions and protecting people.



3- Push people to go beyond their limits


Leadership is not getting the most of your teams by making them work harder. True leadership is inspiring your people to reach new heights and do things they never thought they could do.


Steve Jobs had been continuously challenging his teams, pushing them to explore their own limits and realize that they can achieve what seems to be impossible to them.


For example, Jobs once asked Larry Kenyon, a Macintosh engineer, to cut the boot-up time. Kenyon insisted that he couldn't make it any faster. But Jobs asked him: "if it could save a person's life, would you find a way to shave 10 seconds off the boot time?" (from Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography). Jobs doodled an equation according to which if 5 million people used the Mac and it took 10 seconds less to turn the machine on everyday, that would amount to 100 saved lifetimes over a year. This equation, and the message behind it, motivated Kenyon to cut the boot-up time, not by 10 seconds, but by 28 seconds.


Great leaders believe in their teams, infuse them with passion for their work, motivate and inspire them to make the impossible happen.



4- Empower your teams


Jobs surrounded himself with talented and smart people. And he emphasized the importance of trusting and having faith in people. His teams felt involved and safe to create wonderful things because they felt empowered, recognized and offered the necessary tools and resources to do so.


For example, when Jobs discovered Jony Ive, a visionary talented designer, he made him the second-most powerful person at Apple, after himself. This led to the greatest creation and launch in 1998 of the iMac, which recorded the fastest sales in Apple's history.


Great leaders are humble enough to believe that other people can be very smart, if not smarter. They trust their teams and give them tools (i.e. freedom to act, create, decide). They empower them to foster innovation and great success.



5- Promote creativity


Steve Jobs believed that creativity was just connecting ideas coming mostly from spontaneous meetings.


Great leaders maintain regular interactive discussions with their teams and encourage them to speak up and share their thoughts. They believe this to be key to promote creativity and achieve bigger success.



6- Don't focus on money


Steve Jobs was not focused on profits, and money was not his number-one priority. He was striving to introduce disruptive innovations and he was driven by a purpose to change and to serve the world.


And this is what great leaders do: they shift their focus from money to incredible impacts on people. At the end of the day, your company's financials will reflect the great impact you're creating.



7- Learn from failures


Jobs faced failure with an incredible determination to learn and move on. He experienced some product launch failures without letting those failures stop him, nor define his future. He dropped out of college. And one of his biggest failures was his dismissal from his own company. But Jobs didn't only show strength going through these experiences. He demonstrated how failures could be your best experiences in life, if only you learn from them.


When he was away from Apple, Jobs focused on making amendments in his life and character. He reconnected with people from his family, and he learnt to control his obsession with perfectionism and the way he treated others.


Great leaders are not stubborn. They know that life is a great teacher, and so are people around them. They put themselves in a perspective where they can constantly become a better person.



8- Make a difference


Jobs was known for his stormy behaviors. His attitude was driven by an uncompromising passion for perfection.


Of course, being rude and tough is not the best attitude, and I'm not encouraging you to emulate his temper to be successful. The point is that there is another side to the coin: Jobs wanted to create revolutionary machines that would "make a dent in the universe". He encouraged people to make a difference and he pushed them to be innovative. Jobs even mentioned that innovation is what distinguishes between a leader and a follower.


Great leaders make a difference in the world and in people's life. They are innovative and they constantly challenge the status quo.



9- Be Yourself, and... Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish


In his commencement speech at Stanford University, Jobs encouraged students to follow their heart, be themselves and never live someone else's life. He encouraged them to be... authentic!


And here, I leave you with Steve Jobs' speech to the crazy ones.



And you? Which lesson do you most connect with?


Leave us a comment and share with your network!


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