Leadership and Steve Jobs

With Steve Jobs passing and his memorial service this past weekend, many people have been writing about his life, legacy, and impact not only on technology and business, but Global culture.  There’s talk about a biography, last week the rights to his story for a movie were bought, and today economists are concluding that the lackluster reveal of the new iPhone 4S and subsequent sellout of pre-orders (more than iPhone 4), is a result of Jobs’ death.  There was a lot of noise last week.  As I digested it all, I wanted to offer my reflections on Steve Jobs.

20 Years Using a Mac

Without never meeting the man, I felt like we were connected by a shared vision.  The first Mac I used was in 10th grade in 1988.  It was an Apple II Plus.  Even then I loved it.  In college before people had their own PCs, I hijacked the only Mac on campus for students:  A Mac Plus the school newspaper used.  They were running Pagemaker 1.0 for layout and this crazy thing called  a laser printer.  My papers were in all done in ClarisWorks.  I still have them all saved on floppy discs in a storage bin somewhere in my basement.  When I graduated, I bought my first mac, a used Mac Plus with a whopping 5GB external hard drive.  Two years later I upgraded to a Performa 631 CD.  I started my first company on an all-in-one Performa.  When I was planting a church, I got my first “portable” laptop, a Powerbook.  From there I upgraded to a  iMac G3,  a beige G3 tower, swivel iMac (still my favorite design), redesigned iMac, MacBook Pro, and now a 13″ MacBook Air.  I’ve also used many desktops and MacBooks for work as well.  I still have a mint condition iPod Color (second generation), (I’ve had pretty much every iPod), had the iPhone 3g, 3Gs, and upgrading this week to the 4S.  I was at WWDC 2007 in Moscone when Steve released the iPhone.  I was an Apple fan when they had 1% of market on desktop and laptop computers.  I feel like I’ve been there with Steve.  I feel part of the story.

I felt the pain of the Powercomputing experiment.  I questioned many moves from Apple in the late 80s and early 90s.  I specifically remember talking to one of my best friends in 1998 about buying stock in Apple but it was too expensive for a couple of college grads with debt and working in ministry not making much.  A share was $17.

When I arrived at Spring Arbor University in 2001, the school had only a handful of Macs and no support.  When I got the job working in our marketing department building a new Web site for the school as well as producing video, I fought for a Mac and got it.  We then hired a CIO who worked at Apple and today our helpdesk supports both Mac and PC, has an Apple online store for the school, and sees close to a 50/50 split for both faculty, staff, and students for Macs.  The organization I currently lead didn’t have any Apple support two years ago and one Mac user.  Today we have infrastructure for both platforms and a significant uptick in Mac users (specifically my team).

Part of A Tribe

Being an “Apple Guy” is a badge of honor I gladly wear.  Early we were the mavericks.  We were the rebels.  We had to provide our own IT support, figure out how to access network drives, get around systems, and “think differently”.  We identified with the marketing strategy and resurgence Steve brought to Apple when he returned.  We were excited when the iMac took off and the iPod followed up.  iTunes and Mac OSX changed the landscape and the iPhone, App Store business model, and the iPad pushed Apple into the mainstream.  I remember being saddened to see an iPad being sold in Wal Mart.  I loved that it signified Apple won.  But it also seemed to dilute my community – my tribe.

The thing we hear over and over from people who talk about Steve is his drive.  He wanted the best and expected the best.  This garnered him praise when he stood in front of a crowd and unveiled the latest innovation.  It also exposed his darker side inside Apple for his sometimes harsher treatment of his team.  His heart and motives were right.  Sometimes his execution with people may not have been.  Today Apple seems pretty stable because of the investment Jobs made in his Executive Team.  He instilled the ethos of Apple in those leaders to carry on.  That’s one mark of a great leader.

There is a lot of conversation on the future of Apple.  The common theme seems to be Apple is going to live in because of Steve’s investment in his leadership team and his commitment to excellence.  That’s a great message and model for me as I lead.

The Crazy Ones (Narrated By Steve Jobs)

I didn’t know Steve Jobs, so I can’t say I’ll miss him.  What I’ll miss is how he virtually changed how we use technology and connect Globally.  Steve lead us to “think differently” and pushed us beyond our wineskins of Microsoft, DOS, and even the Zune (low blow).

Here’s to the crazy ones, Steve.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Steven Weyhrich

    Anyone who believes that 4 million people are going to go out and buy an expensive phone JUST BECAUSE Steve Jobs died and oh how sad that is I’d better spend some more money for Apple things, is just whistling in the dark. The iPhone 4S is selling well because it is a better phone than what Android offers. 

    Nice article. (By the way, the Apple II Plus is not a Macintosh; it is an Apple II. But that’s my only beef.)

    • Jason

      Thanks for the comment, Steven. Agreed on the why people are buying the 4S. It’s because the’ve been waiting for the upgrade, they’re on Sprint, or they’re tired of Blackberry and Android. As of today their behind on projections. Partially because I think they didn’t plan ahead for demand. My 4S is back-ordered 4 weeks.

      And thanks for the clarification on the Apple II.

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