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Steve Jobs Quotes: Leadership Style
My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better. My job is to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways and get the resources for the key projects. And to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better, coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be.
You’ve baked a really lovely cake, but then you’ve used dog shit for frosting. [Commenting on a NeXT programmer's work]
If they are working in an environment where excellence is expected, then they will do excellent work without anything but self-motivation. I’m talking about an environment in which excellence is noticed and respected and is in the culture. If you have that, you don’t have to tell people to do excellent work. They understand it from their surroundings.
My best contribution to the group is not settling for anything but really good stuff. A lot of times, people don’t do great things because great things really aren’t expected of them, and nobody ever really demands that they try, and nobody says, “Hey, that’s the culture here.” If you set that up, people will do things that are greater than they ever thought they could be. Really some great work that will go down in history.
When you get really good people, they know they’re really good, and you don’t have to baby people’s egos so much. And what really matters is the work, and everybody knows that. So, people are being counted on to do specific pieces of the puzzle. And the most important thing you can do for someone who’s really good and really being counted on is to point out to them when their work isn’t good enough.
Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.
I found that there were these incredibly great people at doing certain things, and that you couldn’t replace one of these people with 50 average people. They could just do things that no number of average people could do.
My job is to say when something sucks rather than sugarcoat it.
I don’t think I run roughshod over people, but if something sucks, I tell people to their face. It’s my job to be honest. I know what I’m talking about, and I usually turn out to be right. That’s the culture I tried to create. We are brutally honest with each other, and anyone can tell me they think I am full of shit and I can tell them the same. And we’ve had some rip-roaring arguments, where we are yelling at each other, and it’s some of the best times I’ve ever had. I feel totally comfortable saying, “Ron, that store looks like shit” in front of everyone else. Or I might say, “God, we really fucked up the engineering on this” in front of the person that’s responsible. That’s the ante for being in the room: You’ve got to be able to be super honest. Maybe there’s a better way, a gentlemen’s club where we all wear ties and speak in this Brahmin language and velvet code-words, but I don’t know that way, because I am middle class from California.
Somebody once told me, “Manage the top line, and the bottom line will follow.” What’s the top line? It’s things like, why are we doing this in the first place? What’s our strategy? What are customers saying? How responsive are we? Do we have the best products and the best people? Those are the kind of questions you have to focus on.
We’ve got really capable people at Apple. I made Tim [Cook] COO and gave him the Mac division and he’s done brilliantly. I mean, some people say, “Oh, God, if [Jobs] got run over by a bus, Apple would be in trouble.” And, you know, I think it wouldn’t be a party, but there are really capable people at Apple. And the board would have some good choices about who to pick as CEO. My job is to make the whole executive team good enough to be successors, so that’s what I try to do.
When we took [the original iMac prototype] to the engineers, they said, “Oh.” And they came up with 38 reasons [it couldn't be done]. And I said, “No, no, we’re doing this.” And they said, “Well, why?” And I said, “Because I’m the CEO, and I think it can be done.” And so they kind of begrudgingly did it. But then it was a big hit.
I’m brutally honest, because the price of admission to being in the room with me is I get to tell you you’re full of shit if you’re full of shit, and you get to say to me I’m full of shit, and we have some rip-roaring fights. And that keeps the B-players, the bozos, from larding the organization. Only the A-players survive. And the people who do survive, say, “Yeah, he was rough.” They say things even worse than “He cut in line in front of me,” but they say, “This was the greatest ride I’ve ever had, and I would not give it up for anything.”
When we laid some people off at Apple a year ago, or when I have to take people out of their jobs, it’s harder for me now. Much harder. I do it because that’s my job. But when I look at people when this happens, I also think of them as being 5 years old. And I think that person could be me coming home to tell my wife and kids that I just got laid off. Or that could be one of my kids in 20 years. I never took it so personally before. Life is short, and we’re all going to die really soon.
We’ve got 25,000 people at Apple. About 10,000 of them are in the stores. And my job is to work with sort of the top 100 people, that’s what I do. That doesn’t mean they’re all vice presidents. Some of them are just key individual contributors. So when a good idea comes, you know, part of my job is to move it around, just see what different people think, get people talking about it, argue with people about it, get ideas moving among that group of 100 people, get different people together to explore different aspects of it quietly, and, you know, just explore things.
It’s not the tools that you have faith in — tools are just tools. They work, or they don’t work. It’s people you have faith in or not… I mean, I get pessimistic sometimes, but not for long.
I don’t really care about being right, I just care about success. You’ll find a lot of people that will tell you I had a very strong opinion, and they presented evidence to the contrary and five minutes later I changed my mind. I don’t mind being wrong, and I’ll admit that I’m wrong a lot. It doesn’t really matter to me too much. What matters to me is that we do the right thing.
It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.