Thursday, October 6, 2011

What leadership programs will not achieve - thoughts about Steve Jobs

I was trying to put together a few ideas about the future of training and leadership in this connected world, when I learned about the death of Steve Jobs.  So I thought I would pay a tribute to someone that co-created and built a company I started understanding and admire only ten years ago.

Even though I started working with a Mac, I was really converted to using Apple products by Claude, one of my good friends and partners. Convincing me would take time as I was all about building Talent Club into a software company at that time, and managing costs (I thought) was key. So Claude did convince me on the "cost" side - yes, Apple products are really cheaper than you would know, but you need to understand some things like value in a different way. Following, he started a slow (maybe painful for him) process of giving me some insights into Apple ways. And his main lesson, that I have made mine in my consulting activity today was : "Well, if that's what you need, why don't you just do it ?". Apple products are built so that you can easily do everything that they promise - no more, no less.

There are two other things I remember about learning the Apple ways. First, the importance of being true to its own principles. If I understand correctly, most of the success of Apple today rests on it having built a community of developpers on this very foundation (software development principles in this case, but you could argue the same about design principles and industrial principles).

Second, the ability that Apple has (or Steve Jobs had) of inventing the product you could not even dream about but, deep inside, unconsciously, you were ready for. It is how I translate my experience each time I discover a new product or a new evolution : I would certainly not have thought about it, but I was actually waiting for it to push my own professional practice further. I have really had these experiences each time I change my Mac or upgrade OSX.

All will be said about Steve Jobs these days, by people who knew him, so I had better stop here. I would just add that the the impact of people like Steve Jobs would not be predicted nor made possible by any educational, leadership or management program. And that is a very humbling thought for someone who has tried understanding how improving individual and collective ways of working can help advance our corporations

I've had the intuition for a long way that leadership practices we so carefully develop are only a way for corporations to face the shortage of truly exceptional people.

At the high end of the ladder, it's all about believing in yourself (“You know, I’ve got a plan that could rescue Apple. I can’t say any more than that it’s the perfect product and the perfect strategy for Apple. But nobody there will listen to me.”) and showing strong character (“My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better.”) - quotes from Macstories

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