Pick up the 5,000 leadership books from the past five years, and my hunch is that you may not hear in those books that Steve Jobs is considered one of the greatest leaders of our times. People spoke often about his difficulties with people, his perfectionism and his distaste for the press. He never finished college, had a few rocky patches in life, but that did not stop him from being one of the most celebrated geniuses of our times.
Now that Steve Jobs is no longer with us, something tells me that he will be in history books as the man who truly changed our world during the 20th and early 21st century. While he may not have been the best people person, there are many different types of leaders, and hands down, Steve Jobs (in my opinion) is the greatest visionary leader of the past 50 years. He did not just change the way we live and work in the United States but changed the lives of billions of people worldwide. In my opinion, someone who changes the entire world during their lifetime is certainly someone who defines true leadership.
When it comes to leadership, being a true visionary is a gift…not many people really have it. To get people to buy into a big, world changing vision is very tough, but not for Jobs. After a series of ups and downs, 10 years ago, Jobs went on a quest to truly change the world when he unveiled the iPod to the world. I remember seeing the tiny, simple, sleek, thin and sexy looking device and thought “It can hold over 10,000 songs? That little thing…no way! Can’t happen and wont. And who in the world will buy it at that price?.” Boy, was I wrong. When I suddenly “got” that the new device could download 10,000 songs from iTunes and watched my kids going crazy downloading songs with white earbuds in their ears, I became a believer and a buyer. I now own an iPod, iTouch, iPhone and an iPad. I still work on a Windows computer, but I want an Apple computer…that will be the next computer I own.
To see the timeline of the innovative process of Steve Jobs, just flip through this slideshow on CNN. Really amazing!
Many people will tell you that Steve Jobs was not the tech guy (although I do take some argument with that statement…you don’t run one of the largest technology based businesses in the world without a great deal of tech knowledge), but instead, he was the man who could see where we are all going in our hyper-connected world and knew how to bring the greatest minds together to get his futuristic ideas to work. He knew the home computer could do more, look and feel a lot more cool and could make life simpler for everyone. He was a music lover and knew that people would love to be able to pull out a tiny device and scroll to their favorite song out of a list of 10,000 and that those songs could then be streamed into your home stereo system. He knew that the iPhone would not just dial numbers…that it would serve as a mini computer that could be a GPS system, could turn on your lights while you were away from home, could be a barcode scanner, would eventually be able to scan credit cards and could help you find the pet of your dreams. And, once the public fell in love with the iPhone, he knew people would want something like the iPhone in a bigger form…in the form of a tablet. The interesting thing is this: Steve Jobs had a way of knowing what we wanted before we knew we wanted it, and once we had our iBooks, iPods, iPhones and iPads, we then wanted the newer version, more apps to be more efficient in life and would probably not be able live without them. And of course, as a result of Steve Jobs’ innovative spirit, his competitors around the world tried to come up with their own ideas (which were actually copycat versions of what Jobs had already built) to compete with the genius. While a few of his competitors have come close, they really have not yet quite hit the mark, and Jobs was always 2 steps ahead of the rest of the world of technology.
I know the world is grieving today, but I want to encourage you all to also celebrate his life and legacy to the world. Steve Job said it all best in his commencement speech to Stanford in 2011:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life,” Jobs said that day.
“No one wants to die,” he added. ”Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. ”
“Your time is limited,” Jobs added. ”So don’t waste it living someone else’s life. … Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.
As we grieve today, let’s all celebrate the life and legacy of Steve Jobs…and look at his words closely…Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.