by Bill Taylor
When you see the affection, respect, and admiration for this leader, an outpouring of emotion that I can’t recall for the departure of any other businessperson or technologist, isn’t it natural to think about your own eventual departure, the legacy you’ll leave behind, the ways in which your career will be remembered?
Few of us have the chance to achieve 1/100th of what Steve Jobs has achieved. But all work and use it as an opportunity to ask more of ourselves as leaders and innovators with a chance to make a small positive difference for our industry, our customers, and our colleagues.
So if you want to use the end of Steve Jobs’s hands-on leadership at Apple to inspire a greater commitment to leadership by you, I’d suggest that you ask these five simple questions — questions that define what it means to be a high-impact leader today.
1. Why should great people want to work with you?
Steve Jobs surrounded himself with remarkably talented designers, retailers, and engineers because he understood that the most talented performers aren’t motivated primarily by money or status. Great people want to work on exciting projects. Great people want to feel like impact players. Put simply, great people want to feel like they’re part of something greater than themselves — they want to become, to use a favorite Jobs phrase, “insanely great.”
2. Do you know a great person when you see one?
It’s a lot easier to be the right kind of leader if you’re running a team or department filled with the right kind of people. Do you know what makes your star performers tick — and how to find more performers who share those attributes? Steve Jobs was as picky about the people he let into Apple as he was about the features that went into Apple’s products.
3. Can you find great people who aren’t looking for you?
The most talented performers tend to be in jobs they like, working with people they enjoy, on projects that keep them challenged. So leaders who are content to fill their organizations with people actively looking for jobs risk attracting malcontents and mediocre performers. The trick is to win over so-called “passive” jobseekers. These people may be outside your company, or they may be in a different department from inside your company, but they won’t work for you unless you work hard to persuade them to join.
4. Are you great at teaching great people how your team or company works and wins?
Even the most highly focused specialists (software programmers, graphic designers, marketing wizards) are at their best when they appreciate how the whole business operates. That’s partly a matter of sharing financial statements: Can every person learn how to think like a businessperson?
5. Are you as tough on yourself as you are on your people?
There’s no question that talented and ambitious young people have high expectations — for themselves, for their team or company, for their colleagues. Which is why they can be so tough on their leaders. The ultimate challenge for leaders is to share those same lofty expectations for their own behavior.
You don’t have to aspire to be the next Steve Jobs to learn some lessons from his one-of-a-kind career. Perhaps that can be his greatest legacy of all — a generation of leaders who think bigger and aim higher because of what he achieved.
Outpouring: an uncontrollable expression of strong feeling
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