What I've Learned as a Leader From Steve Jobs

Not many people get to say they've changed the world. Steve Jobs, who died yesterday, could. If you've ever posted a picture to the internet, downloaded a song online, or done both of those things on the same device as you talk to your office on, you've benefited from Steve Jobs' leadership. Even if you've never used an Apple product, their presence and innovation pushed the market in a direction it might not have gone otherwise.

I'm not a CEO of a for-profit company. I'm not an Apple afficianado - I have an iPhone and an iPad because nobody else is doing what they're doing, but I don't have any brand loyalty. If someone else made something truly better, I'd buy it instead. And, I don't necessarily want to lead like Steve Jobs. His leadership style was legendary for being crass, condescending, and focused solely on the bottom line. We're trying to do vastly different things.  However, here are a few things I've learned from Steve Jobs.

1. Simplicity and focus can change the world. There were mp3 players on the market before the iPod, but they were nearly impossible to use. In a market where billions of things were technologically possible, he introduced a device with one button; a device that fulfilled one function. And sold gagillions. Jobs said, "That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."

2. Presentation Matters. If you cut corners you can't be trusted, and you have to go all the way. I love this quote (that I read in the Wall Street Journal, not the magazine where it originally appeared). "When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” Function isn't the only thing that matters; form matters too.

3. Intuitive systems allow for passionate followers. My two-year old can use my iPhone, and I didn't have to teach him. That's why people are so passionate about Apple products... you don't need to be a rocket scientist to be a power-user and do incredible things. People don't want to spend all their time figuring out your systems; they want to do something, create something, change the world. If your products, services, messages, or organizations are so complex they take forever to figure out, they'll go the way of the IBM computer. If your systems accommodate functionality without getting in the way of it, people will fall all over themselves to be involved with whatever you're doing.