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Ten leadership lessons from the Steve Jobs school of management

What Walter Isaacson's biography of Apple's co-founder can teach about doing business the right way...

...the actual physical objects being talked about so that participants could "feel, inspect and fondle" the objects they were making decisions on. Meetings for Jobs were true meetings of minds, where ideas could be rubbed together and grow stronger as a result - about as far away from the empty office ritual of cliché as it's possible to get.

9. Negotiating? Take a long walk...

One of Jobs' favourite negotiating tactics was to ask his interlocutor to take a walk - allowing Jobs to make his pitch on the move and impart a bit of extra dynamism to the talks. Walking and talking also generates a sense of shared experience and can foster a closer bond which helped give Jobs an edge in tricky negotiation situations, such as when he was trying to woo John Sculley to join Apple from Pepsi.

Green man walking

Taking someone on a long walk was a favourite negotiating tactic of JobsCreative Commons: Dominic Alves

Isaacson writes how the pair walked all over New York, taking in Central Park, the Met Museum, Broadway, 49th Street, San Remo and a penthouse apartment on 74th which Jobs planned to buy.

"Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?" Jobs asked at the climax of their negotiations. Sculley didn't stand a chance.

Jobs also used a walk to soften the blow when asking Markkula to resign from the Apple board. Isaacon quotes Markkula describing the event: "He told me he wanted a new board because he wanted to start fresh... He was worried that I might take it poorly, and he was relieved when I didn't."

Jobs also used walks to clear his own head and help him reach a decision at the rare times when he was having difficulty deciding something - such as whether or not he should drop the 'interim' prefix from his CEO title at Apple and become a bona fide CEO.

10. What's next? Think about tomorrow today

Every year, Jobs took a group of his most valued Apple employees on a retreat - known as The Top 100 - where the discussion would be focused on what the company should do next. At one retreat in 2001, Isaacson describes how Jobs started off asking what 10 things Apple should do next.

"People would fight to get their suggestions on the list," he writes. "Jobs would write them down, and then cross off the ones he decreed dumb. After much jockeying, the group would come up with a list of 10. Then Jobs would slash the bottom seven and announce, 'We can only do three'."

But focused future-gazing was not just an annual event at Apple. For Jobs, every working week started with a three- or four-hour discussion about tomorrow's world. "The key venue for freewheeling discourse was the Monday morning executive team gathering," Isaacson writes. "The focus was always on the future: What should each product do next? What new things should be developed?"

Jobs had always had his eye on the future, right from Apple's fledgling years. Pitching the company to a programmer he was trying to hire in those early years, he said in typically hyperbolic terms: "We are inventing the future... Come down here and make a dent in the universe."

This preoccupation with the future, with innovation, allowed Jobs to keep Apple relevant - whether it was building desktop PCs, digital music players or mobile phones. But asking what Apple should do next was a very Jobsian way of innovating, still tightly focused on Apple's capabilities and on the next thing in the chain. By eyeballing product development in this focused fashion, he ensured the company did not upset its current capabilites by diluting its future efforts across too broad a horizon.

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