Insights of Apple and Leadership Skill of Steve Jobs


My colleague and friend, Russell Raath at Kotter International, shares some interesting insights about Steve Jobs during his 1997 return to Apple.
Earlier today JP Nicols (a friend and colleague) posted a tweet that caught my eye – it was a post honoring Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, on the 3rd anniversary of his passing and directed me to a brief video of Jobs. I took a few minutes to check out the video. You should too.

The video shows an internal company meeting at Apple in 1997. Steve Jobs had recently returned to the company after Apple’s acquisition of NeXT. Wearing shorts and his infamous black turtleneck, he appears casually on stage and starts talking about his vision for the company, about connecting with people in a way that most companies don’t (except the best companies in the world) and he talks about the reboot at Apple.

Specifically, he highlights a number of key principles that have (in hindsight) propelled Apple forward:

Getting back to basics – great products, great marketing and great distribution.

An acknowledgement that Apple has in some cases drifted from doing the basics really well. A realization that Apple (in 1997) was trying to do too much – with too little focus. The realization that they were doing too much led Apple to eliminate 70 percent of the product roadmap. 70 percent! By any standards that is a huge number. The contention was that a simpler product line would be a better product line.

In launching the actual commercial and the principles behind the “Think different” approach to marketing, Jobs talks about the need for the company to “think differently” about the products, and the impact that they will have in a very busy, very noisy world. If you listen carefully, you’ll see how he is emphasizing the need to think differently even before he unveils the “Think different” messaging.

One last highlight – instead of differentiating Apple from the competition on the basis of technical performance or hardware attributes, Jobs encourages the company to talk about the impact they will have on the world.
Ultimately we all know how this story unfolds… if stock price in an indicator of success, the results have been pretty impressive … Check out the trajectory of Apple’s stock since 1997.

Steve Jobs is almost universally regarded as a leader for his leadership skills. His focus and vision were key elements of his character as a leader. So the challenge to us all is this:

Are we clear about our vision – not in a lofty, nice-sounding-themes-and-words kind of way, but in an “our company will have this impact on the world” way?

And are we focused – enough? Or do we need to cut X percent of the busy effort that we (and our teams) are doing and FOCUS on what is important?