Leadership lessons from Steve Jobs
Any idea what’s happened to Apple’s share
price since Steve Jobs returned as CEO in 1998? For perspective, the Nasdaq
index of US tech stocks has gone up 40% during this time. The answer is an
eye-popping 2500%. No wonder he is widely recognized as one of the most
inspirational brand leaders ever. What can we mere mortals learn from the
incredible leadership of Steve Jobs?
Don’t let anyone
fool you that Apple is a lifestyle brand for people who want to challenge the
norm and be a rebel. The lifestyle advertising loved by marketing folk is not
the key to Apple’s success. Jobs’ key role has been re-igniting and keeping
alight the passion for amazing products. Sure, the look and feel of the
products creates desire. But the product and software design creates delight
and wonder in use. Jobs’ first move when returning to Apple was to launch the
candy coloured original iMac as a symbol of re-invention. He then inspired,
cajoled and aligned the Apple organization to design a stream of breakthrough
products and software, including iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad.
might not all work on products as sexy as Apples, but that shouldn’t stop us
having a passion for the products and services we work on. This is important
not only for customers, but also for engaging people inside the business.
Research by Interbrand shows that selling products you are proud of is the
number one driver of organizational pride.
an epic storyteller
Jobs is Apple’s Chief Executive Office, but
also the Chief Storyteller. He’s not just in the business of making products.
He’s on a mission to revolutionise the way we create and interact with
information and entertainment. This is summed up by Jobs’ famous question to John
Sculley, when persuading the Pepsi CEO to join Apple: "Do you want to sell
sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and
change the world?"
brand leaders should create and communicate a clear and inspiring story about
the journey you want to take, and why its worth people joining you. And you
don’t have to sell a sexy product to have a sexy story. Look at how Persil/Omo have been on a journey to give kids freedom to get dirty. Or how Pampers are helping mums with baby development every step of the way.
3. Be a
beacon for buzz:
Steve Jobs acts as the public face of
Apple. In particular, he is the star of the Apple events where the latest new
products are launched, each one a “chapter” in the story of the Apple brand. In
this role he generates huge amounts of free PR for the brand. In his rare interviews
he further fuels the fire of brand buzz. A google search for “Steve Jobs and
Apple” returns 28 million hits.
leaders should ensure they are this visible face out there promoting the story
of their brand. Richard Reed of innocent has done a great job of this. He has
romanticized the story of how he and his mates started the company by testing
prototype products at a festival, and positioned the brand as helping us get
those elusive five daily portions of fruit and veg.
In conclusion, leading like Steve Jobs means having a
passionate zeal for your product or service, and telling a brand story based on
this passion to your employees, customers and the wider world. And if you only
help generate a fraction of that 2500% increase in stock price increase, you’ll
still be a hero.