Steve Jobs, Corporate America, and the Federal Government

March/11/2012 20:11PM
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I’m just wrapping up reading the biography, Steve Jobs. It’s a pretty remarkable read. The author exposes Steve for the genius and character that he was.

Apple’s success is tied to Jobs himself. Until the cancer took him out, he was very much in control of everything that happened at both Apple and Pixar. Until he sold Pixar to Disney. Steve was a control freak who needed to be involved in every detail of every project. He had zero political correctness and less diversity. He didn’t delegate and had horrible people skills. He broke every rule ever taught by any business school. He would have been fired by any corporation of any size in this country, as he was by Apple. He would even have been fired by the federal government, if that’s possible.

When Apple brought him back it was out of desperation. The button-down replacements had almost destroyed the company. He wouldn’t commit to the title CEO and worked for a dollar a year for two years.

As you look at how Steve ran Apple, making it the most successful company in the world, you see his style on one extreme. Autocratic, but creative. One man controlling even the furniture picked for the offices, yet departments working together seamlessly. A leader with what was called a “reality distortion field” who got employees to accept the unreality and do the impossible. A leader who had a hundred ideas an hour but would only let the company work on three big projects at a time. A leader who was cruel to waitresses, family, employees, and friends, but still kept key employees who remained loyal and learned to overlook the abuse. A leader who never dressed for business nor showered as often as he should. A ruthless negotiator who held grudges forever.

Somewhere in the middle you have corporate America. A place where diversity rules, political correctness is king, treating employees with dignity is a must, delegation expected, control is passed down, and decisions are made by teams.

On the other extreme you have government. No accountability. No real leadership, just a warning-“don’t embarrass me.” Departments don’t work together, hence we have Homeland Security– billions spent because the other alphabet soups like CIA, NSA, FBI, etc, can’t work together. Committees, rules, and bureaucracy decides everything. No creativity, no initiative, no risk taking, no real passion for any job. I’m excluding the troops from all of this.

Is it possible Steve Jobs gave everyone a new business model for success?

Find a genius who cares and give them free rein to run the show. Ignore the problems unless the results don’t come. A genius who has passion for the business and wants to control everything and has the energy to do it all. Break the molds folks. HR will only need mops to clean up the blood from all the damaged feelings, employee turnover, and lawsuits. But, Steve said, “A players like to work with A players”. He saw it his job to get rid of B players. How he did it was not relevant.

You will need to shore up the law department. Relationships with suppliers, partners, and those who cross this leader will generate business for law.

Is this a one-time, one-person deal, or are there other Steve Jobs out there who could do what Steve did at Apple when he stacked the board with his people and they let him go?

Never in my lifetime have I seen any business or government run with the Jobs style, except Apple, and, maybe the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department. Will business schools look at this and see a need to change the approach to management they teach? Will other companies do the same? I won’t even ask the question about governments.

Was Steve Jobs the only person in history who could make this work?

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