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Please, don’t be another Steve Jobs!

Fire less people, build a culture inside your business, encourage innovative ideas - and other things Steve jobs could have done better.

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Steve jobs photo in a book cover and iPhone

Steve Jobs was a great inventor and entrepreneur who created devices without which we can’t think our daily life. Being great at something comes with a few handicaps in other areas. You can’t be good at everything. And Steve Jobs isn’t portrayed as a boss anyone would like to have. Here are some reasons why his leadership is not to be taken as inspiration.

Many guides and entrepreneurs will tell you how to build leadership skills. If you’ve been unlucky enough, you might have your social media feeds filled with such “gurus”. While a few real entrepreneurs give sounds advice on the dos of a successful entrepreneur, the truth is that we learn more from the don’ts. In our case, let’s let Steve practices teach us what a good leader shouldn’t do.

Keeping the goals for himself

Leaders know the importance of their teams. Leaders have the vision of what they want to be completed in a matter of months and years. The vision pushes them forward, but what happens if the people supposed to help you complete the vision know nothing about it? What should motivate them? How should they frame their thinking? 

Steve Jobs expected people to get his vision without him saying a word, and this put his employees between two choices: either leave or get fired. There isn’t much to do when your boss expects you to figure out things from his facial expression.

We can take for example the case of Rob Johnson, who was responsible for outstanding retail store creation. Pushed by the practices of Steve he left. He was not the only one to do so. The president of communication and marketing, Alison Johnson left too, followed by many others. 

No matter how skilled the people you might choose in your team. They joined you and you are supposed to lead them forward. Not sharing the vision with your team will leave them unmotivated, unproductive and guarantee you failure.

Not investing in your staff

This is closely related to the first mistake. Building a business or bringing people together for a cause means you invest with your time or financial resources to help them reach their full potential. Then, everything blossoms together. One flower can’t be called a garden.

Steve was way more confident than he should have been. Definitely that he had the vision to invent and create, but he wasn’t able to communicate his ideas properly because of the lack of specialization in certain areas. He advised engineers, designers, and managers out of his instinct, which was the same as speaking in a foreign language.

This caused a lot of frustration and well, you guessed it, some people to leave. If Steve had hired the managers who would be able to break his ideas into technical concepts his team could implement, this would have avoided the loss of excellent people in his staff and time.

Unless you feel like you can clearly speak the same language with your team on technical terms and guide them toward the right path, you better kill your pride and hire a few more people. Otherwise, the end product will push you to fire a few people and slow the pace.

Fearing innovation 

You have heard this story before. The greatest inventors have been blamed for stealing ideas. Thomas Edison is said to have stolen the light bulb idea from Nicola Tesla. Steve wasn’t too hard on himself for stealing stuff and claiming it as his own. He would even go further by mocking the original creator.

Innovators like Steve Jobs feared innovation. Weird but true. They feared innovation unless the ideas were theirs. Steve was driven by the desire to succeed so badly, he was fiercely seeking to be the innovator of the next big thing, even if it meant he had to fire people who came with creative ideas.

Letting ego devour the creative leader within you will make you less creative and more stressed. Yes, ego can give you a boost when you need it and keep you up past midnight, but in the end, what’s the point of all the struggle? All this selfishness for what? Success tastes better when it’s shared.

If innovation is really your goal, you shouldn’t fear others having great ideas, and especially where these are people of your team. Instead, nurture those ideas and then build on them. Use them as stepping stones by giving credit to the creators.  If you’re really dedicated, you are going to come up with other ideas.

“Keep your eyes shut!”

When you’re driven by ego and conditioned by the fear of being the best out there, you are going to anxiously fret over what information goes out. What people know about your product before it’s released and how much your employees know.

Apple’s cult of secrecy still exists even today. Steve created a culture within the company where what was said within the company should stay inside it. This went too far at times and it’s funny when you think about how little Apple’s employees knew about what they were producing.

Designers were separated into small teams to work on different elements of a project and programmers were restricted from knowing what the product was. In the early days when the iPhone was launched at Macworld, no more than 12 people knew about it in advance!

Creating a culture of “keep your eyes shut”, where you fire anyone who speaks a word or two about what you’re creating keeps your team in tension. Instead, be open-minded and try to provide your staff with as many details as possible and make them feel like an important part of the process. They’ll work harder and come up with useful ideas.

Not accept to receive advice

Have you ever filled out a survey? Survey sites are very popular. Companies pay thousands of dollars just to ask people about their opinion because they know it’s other people’s opinions that could help them improve.

Not only was Steve the type of leader who didn’t want to hear the opinions of others, but he didn’t even listen to the opinion and feedback of the people he himself had hired. Stories say that he was rude and didn’t save offending comments.

His ego made him self-centered. Success was for him a duty and he considered the success of Apple to be only his responsibility. Trends and intuition were everything he relied on to make decisions, ignoring his people’s feedback.

When you don’t accept to receive feedback from your team, not only you lose the chance of improving your ideas, but you also are not able to support your team properly with the right advice. Listening will only help you improve. A few ideas here and there may lead to the inception of a great one.

Conclusion

Most of you are probably reading this from an Apple device which means Steve did create a culture and love for his brand no matter how bad a leader he could have been. He was hungry for success and dedicated his life to creating an impactful legacy.

Yet, if you read a few of the books written on his life, people he had worked with confess about this authority of him that sometimes was exaggerated and made everyone feel uncomfortable.

Why piss off people and lose professionals that could add value to your company just because your ego is too big? Imagine how many great things you can achieve by doing what Steve didn’t!

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