How to lead like Steve Jobs

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Become a visionary leader and you can do great things. But what does this mean? Chris Golis, adjunct lecturer at the SP Jain Centre of Global Management, explains to our sister publication, Mortgage Professional Australia:
In a talk given last year by  professor of organization behaviour at London Business School Nigel Nicholson, the visionary aspect of a leader is defined as by his or her ability to see things the rest of the team members do not. Successful leaders use their ability to see what others do not see to frame their actions and build a successful business.

Perhaps the best modern example has been Steve Jobs. He did not just transform one industry; through his ability to see what others could not see he transformed four:
  • personal computing with the Mac/iPad;
  • music with iTunes/iPod;
  • communications with the iPhone;
  • and the movie industry with Pixar. 
Leaders fail when they lack insight – into themselves and the worlds they inhabit. Again, Apple provides a wonderful example in the form of John Scully, who is immortalised by this famous quote while he was CEO of Apple:

"Apple was supposed to become a wonderful consumer products company. This was a lunatic plan. High-tech could not be designed and sold as a consumer product."

He could not have been more wrong. Scully is also famous for another quote:

"The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious."

Sometimes, the irony of life is truly delicious.

So vision is important provided he or she is looking at the right things. Again, I refer to Nigel Nicholson, and in particular his latest book, The ‘I’ of Leadership. The insight that really resonated with me was critical leader relationships (CLRs).

Nicholson argues that these are the people who help leaders with their most difficult decisions. In organizations they can be upward, downward and lateral, but Nicholson argues that perhaps the most useful are external, be it a spouse, personal coach or adviser.

According to Nicholson most leaders take CLRs for granted, but successful leaders typically have CLRs that provide the following:
  • Help: e.g. Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer in the early years of Microsoft
  • Insight: e.g. Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charlie Munger
  • Challenge: e.g. Walt Disney Company’s Michael Eisner and Frank Wells
  • Feedback: e.g. Leighton Holding’s Wal King and Dieter Adamsas were a formidable pairing
  • Ideas: e.g. Steve Jobs was always on the hunt for creative intellects
  • Support: e.g. Margaret and Dennis Thatcher

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