CXO

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...

...products that were intuitive and easy to use but also meant Apple was able to sell a lifestyle, not mere appliances - generating greater levels of brand loyalty and triggering a halo effect between products where an iPod owner became an iPhone owner who then bought a Mac.

7. HR: Don't suffer any "bozos"

For all the praise heaped on Jobs, Apple was not the work of just one man. Jobs made sure of that by hiring many highly talented engineers, designers, marketers and managers to work with him and deliver his vision. His hiring philosophy was not to suffer any fools at all.

"His goal was to be vigilant against 'the bozo explosion' that leads to a company being larded with second-rate talent," writes Isaacson of Jobs. This task was made easier by Jobs having an undeniable "eye for talent" - and, evidently, a nose for a bozo.

Isaacson quotes Jobs talking about his approach to hiring being to only hire "A players" because, he reasoned, such highly talented people want to only work with other highly talented people. By this logic, employing a B player makes it easier for a C player to get in the door, and that's bad news since A players don't want to work with C players.

To maintain the calibre of his 'A team', Jobs did not shy away from firing a lot of people who did not meet his exacting standards. For example, when Apple's original cloud services offering, MobileMe, failed to deliver the expected quality of service, Jobs fired the leader of the team. Isaacson quotes Fortune's Adam Lashinsky on Apple's corporate culture: "Accountability is strictly enforced."

8. Meetings: Love them - but hate PowerPoint

Keeping on top of all the detail meant Jobs took part in a lot of meetings - including an executive staff session every Monday and a marketing meeting every Wednesday. But with Jobs' refusal to brook bozos and his love of plain-speaking, these meetings were not like your average office meeting.

powerpoint

Powerpoint: Not a favourite at Steve Jobs' meetingsImage: Microsoft

Jobs liked meeting participants to be in the moment, having a real conversation - not passively watching a screen. Just as Jobs' communication style was direct in order to get results, his philosophy on meetings was that they should have tangible results.

Isaacson quotes Jobs laying into PowerPoint: "I hate the way people use slide presentations instead of thinking. People would confront a problem by creating a presentation. I wanted them to engage, to hash things out at a table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what they're talking about don't need PowerPoint."

Jobs was not anti-props in meetings entirely, but the props he favoured were...

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