Don’t Try to be Steve Jobs

July 29th, 2011

Ben Bleikamp:

First, don’t try to be Steve Jobs. And not because people hate working for him. Don’t try to be Steve Jobs because you’re not Steve Jobs. Be you. You’re not Apple. You’re not Steve Jobs. When you try to act like him you look like a fucking idiot.

Bleikamp points to a post by Jason Goldberg, where he argues that Jobs’s lesson is that CEOs should be product managers.

Bleikamp’s response is that’s incorrect. That is to say, Jobs’s lesson isn’t that all CEOs should be entirely focused on the product if they expect to succeed, but that they should focus on (1) leading (e.g., controlling the direction it’s heading in and the boundaries the company operates within) the company, and (2) what they do best.

Jobs’s most important skill is he knows intuitively what makes a good, compelling product, both in concept and in finished design. As such, Jobs is intimately involved in the products Apple releases. That’s what he does best, so that’s what he does.

Notice that Jobs doesn’t control Apple’s operations. He leaves that to Tim Cook, because Cook is exceptionally good at building and managing the company’s supply chain. Jobs is involved, sureā€”but he delegates it to other people who know what they are doing.

An even more obvious example is Pixar. Before Disney bought Pixar in 2006, Jobs was both CEO and Chairman of Pixar, but he certainly did not act as a traditional CEO. Instead, Jobs delegated almost all authority in actually running the company to Alvy Ray Smith, Ed Catmull and John Lasseter. Jobs didn’t know animation or the movie business and so his role was limited.

That isn’t what someone does if they believe the mark of a good CEO is whether they’re directly involved in all product decisions. It’s what someone does when they know their strengths and weaknesses, and serve the role where they can be most effective.

(Via Marcelo Somers.)