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Top 5 – Lessons from Steve Jobs

I read the Steve Jobs biography over the holidays. What I enjoyed most about the book was all the details of how he handled complex situations and launched new products. As always, I find the behind-the-scenes of decisions much more interesting and informative than the hype.

As such, here are my top 5 lessons from Steve Jobs

1) Recruit relentlessly – Even for the smartest people, work is a team game. I was impressed how hard Steve Jobs relentlessly recruited amazing people to work for Apple whether that was in touring Sun Studios in Memphis and hiring the tour guide to buying plane tickets for people to “just visit” after they had already turned down the job (and then he convinced them).

2) Internal politics – Inside large organization, there is always internal politics. It is easy to say that’s a government problem but throughout the book, there was internal politics. When Jobs lead the Mac launch in mid-1980s, there was a competing division leading a similar project called Lisa and he fought with them all the time. Later in Apple, there would be separate teams working on iPods, iPhones and Tablets that would compete. Minimizing internal politics is key but some good competition internally is not always a bad thing

3) Marketing + Press – Jobs spent a huge amount of time courting the top journalists calling them at home and giving them sneak peeks of the new products. He knew how to get them on his side and make a big splash. For his marketing campaigns, he often micro-managed the minutia as he wanted to get it perfect. Can you imagine the Secretary of HHS or DHS spending as much time on marketing + press? Maybe they should..

4) Liberal Arts + Technology – Jobs often talked that Apple was a mixture of the liberal arts and technology and that’s how they created beautiful products and experiences. They deliberately focused on empathy in their ads and spend tons of time on packaging. Often government thinks of what they do as just a process or a technology. But how can government bring in the liberal arts and creative thinking to create beautiful integrated experiences

5) Look ahead – Jobs spent much of the time in his weekly managers meeting talking about what’s next. After the iPod was huge, he spent a lot of time worrying about how it might get disrupted by phones that integrate music. Thus he realized they had to create a phone. Government is often in reactive mode focused on the latest issue, PR problem, etc. Leaders must make sure to carve out time thinking about the future – how are citizen demands evolving, how does technology affect their business, how does future of budgets change thinking, what are the latest companies thinking through and how can govt leverage

There are lots of great leadership lessons to learn from Steve Jobs that government can apply.

If you read the book, what were your takeaways?

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Kevin Dubs

I read the biography too and loved all the small details of Steve Jobs’ life. The biggest take away for me was his intensity and focus. He determined which products were best for Apple using his strong intuition and got rid of everything else. He then used his strong will and “reality distortion field” to make those products wildly successful no matter what.

Gordon Lee Salmon

Steve I agree with your takeaways from the book which I’m still in the middle of reading. Another lesson for government leaders I got from the book was to pay attention to creating extraordinary customer experiences for your stakeholders. Really spend time ujnderstanding who they are and what they want from your organization. This is especially true for leaders of organizations that operate as fee-for-service, working capital entities. You can no longer assume that captive customers should just shut up and accept whatever you provide because they have to use your services. Captive customers can revolt and find ways to sabotage you politically.

The other lesson I got was that a leader that continues to act as an immature, narcissistic jerk does not win loyal followers. Brilliance and expertise only go so far before toxic relationships kill the joy of collaboration. How many talented people leave government because they get fed up with jerk leaders?