If you can remember the week marked the departure of one of the most iconic figures from the international corporate stage, as Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, stepped down after some years of ill-health. The very fact that his resignation had been slowly and carefully stage-managed for more than a year indicates both the personal impact that Jobs has had on the Apple organisation and the intimate association that intrinsically binds Jobs the individual and Apple the brand. Jobs’ fame has spawned many articles, books and even scholarly texts analysing why he has such global resonance as a leader. His decision-making skills are so admired that an acronym has grown up in his honour – “WWSJD?” i.e. “What would Steve Jobs do?” So what is it about this man that makes him stand out from the crowd and what could we, as relative minnows in the business world, learn from his style and his philosophy?
It’s important to keep in mind from the start that Jobs is not universally loved. He’s a controversial man who divides opinion and who is famous for a fiercely autocratic style. “Aggressive”, “demanding”, “Silicon Valley’s leading egomaniac” are among the epithets Jobs has inspired. Not for him a collaborative, “buddy buddy” style of management. Tales of his temper tantrums are legendary. However Jobs’ belief is that as a leader, you aren’t there to be your subordinates’ best friend - a tip we could all learn as business owners and leaders. “My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better,” Jobs was quoted as saying in Fortune Magazine.