Steve Jobs and Leadership

August 25, 2011

In the wake of Steve Jobs retirement announcement as CEO, Apple shares fell by 5%. For most people Apple is Steve Jobs, so that’s not a surprise. He is staying on in a leadership role, can you imagine the fall if he had stepped away entirely?  Jobs created, then saved and kept Apple as one of the world’s most valuable and innovative organizations. But it wasn’t just vision and inspiration. He created new and must have products during a recession! But more importantly over his career he also ensured that product planning focused on a clear strategy with clean and simple products, avoiding or keeping bureaucratic infighting to a minimum and attracting the best in the world. Steve Jobs is unique and it’s always hard to compare one industry to another, but as Apple deals with this, what are the lessons? What questions should we ponder for our own situation? The most obvious is the need for succession planning, something so many organization ignore totally or put off. But beyond this, let’s take inspiration from Steve Jobs. While no one is irreplaceable and while this is not about ego, would we create the same stir within our own organization if we announced we were leaving? Is your leadership impact such that its loss would shake the company, the department the group which you lead or are a member? Are you known for detailed product planning, inspiration, having a focus on strategy, stamping out infighting and clearing bureaucracy? While we can’t match Steve Jobs and even he is not perfect we can certainly reflect on what we can learn from him.

Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. Denis is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, a Certified Quality Manager, Auditor, and Six Sigma Black Belt. He has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award. A former Professor of Quality at the University of Wisconsin, he has experience as a quality manager in the home building industry as well as construction engineer, site manager, and in training, auditing, and consulting with expertise in strategic and operational quality improvement initiatives. His work has achieved national quality, environmental, and safety management awards for clients. 

Denis is co-author of The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing the Baldrige Criteria: Improve Revenue and Create Organizational Excellence.