Six HR Leadership Lessons We Learned From Steve Jobs

His management style might not have followed university textbooks, but few can argue that Steve Jobs' unconventional leadership (combined with his sheer genius and innate ability to articulate his vision) didn’t greatly contribute to Apple’s worldwide success.

While the unconventional leader might not follow the rules of How to Be a Great Leader, I think we can all learn a thing or two from the leadership outlier.



1. Foster Greatness

"My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better."

Jobs denied three of the six original Apple employees (and former friends) stock when the company went public in 1981, as he believed they were no longer critical assets to the prospering company's success. Appearing in our ebook, 50 Leaders' Inspirational Quotes on How Corporate Culture Drives Business Success, this quote sums up Jobs' leadership style to a T. Every move he made, no matter how heartless it seemed, was for the betterment of his employees, products, and company.


2. Follow Your Passion

“If you don’t love something, you’re not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo as much.”

Jobs believed passion was a critical component of success. Since work fills a large part of people’s lives, he urged everyone to do what they love. The only way to be truly satisfied isto do great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. It was his fearless pursuit of passion that co-founded Apple in 1976, and it was that same fearless pursuit that kept him motivated after he was fired 10 years later.


3. Stay True to Your Vision

“If you don't share our vision...then GET OUT!”

If there was one thing Jobs did not tolerate, it was an employee that didn't share his vision. After Apple's best programmer told Jobs that his requests for the newest Apple II computer could not be done, the co-founder fired him on the spot without hesitation. Jobs stayed focused on the vision he had for Apple and made sure the company and every employee were constantly headed toward that vision. 


4. Hire Creativity

“Here’s to the crazy ones — the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently... the ones that change things.”

The Apple slogan, “Think Different,” was also Jobs’ mentality behind his hiring process. He didn’t just hire highly qualified technical engineers. Instead, he hired “musicians, and poets, and artists, and zoologists, and historians who also happened to be computer scientists.” In his to Stanford, Jobs finished the quote, “While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who think they are crazy enough to change the world, are the ones that do.”


5. Risk Failure

"The greatest artists like Dylan, Picasso and Newton risked failure. And if we want to be great, we’ve got to risk it too."

What separates the people who do things from the ones who just dream about them? The bravery to take risks. Jobs never hesitated when it came to taking risks. He often said that Apple raised the bar for personal computing and if they wanted to stay there, they would have to risk everything. It was his risk-everything mentality that took a small startup in his parent's garage and turned it into a multi-billion dollar company. Jobs wasn't afraid to set incredibly high goals and attack them with tenacity.


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6. Serve a Purpose

“If you keep your eye on the profit, you’re going to skimp on the product. But if you focus on making really great products, then the profits will follow.”

“Make it great,” was one of Jobs’ many signature catch phrases and the foundation of his consumer-focused vision. He often asked himself, “Is this as great as it could be?” because he believed his customers deserved nothing less. Great products would satisfy customers, and in turn, produce great profits.

Leadership 101 teaches us that great leaders are consultative, democratic, and willing to change their course. While I believe that these are attributes of a great leader, I also believe we can learn invaluable leadership lessons from Steve Jobs. Behind his critical and narcissistic exterior, Steve Jobs taught leaders worldwide to foster greatness, follow their passion, stay true to their vision, hire creativity, risk failure, and serve a purpose.

For more lessons on leadership, download our free ebook, The 15 Skills: How to Be a Great Leader.


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Image Credit: wikimedia commons by Justdoit709

Published November 8, 2018 | Written By Natalie Wickham