Use Whitman and Jobs as your role models

Today -- more than ever -- says executive leadership coach John M. McKee, leaders need to be guided by the right role models. He explains why Jobs and Whitman are those role models.

Regardless of industry, organization, gender, or even country, the leaders who are the most successful are usually very savvy at getting their own way. Because of that, they make massive impacts and leave their mark on the organization or even industry.

If that statement seems in any way obvious to you, then ask yourself why it is that the vast majority of leaders -- probably 90% -- rarely make important/huge impacts on their particular organizations? I'm talking about a kind of organizational folklore that all employees discuss.

Like Steve Jobs, the new boss of HP, Meg Whitman, is also well-known for certain management traits that are often frowned upon and discouraged by those in power positions. Here are 5 traits that both of them became known for:

1. Kind of obsessive/compulsive -- not "logical," even when research showed that they were on the wrong path

2. Highly volatile -- and, at times, acting too emotional to be considered appropriate, causing a lot of heartburn in the HR department

3. Prone to cursing -- which "everyone" knows is inappropriate in a business setting. Balanced managers don't behave in that manner, right?

4. Extremely demanding -- often far too much. Being "beyond reason" with their expectations of underlings' performance

5. Disposed to favoritism -- to projects, people, suppliers. All of which are usually cautioned against because they can result in legal actions

Steve Jobs created products and new industries because he was never going to accept business as usual. He led a boardroom coup, created magic, and was hated by many for his arrogance. At EBAY, Meg Whitman took charge of an interesting company and then literally changed the world of commerce, along with the lives of millions. She is also well known for being mercurial and dismissive.

When leaders are at their best, they care deeply about what's going on. And everyone around them can see that. But most, probably 90%, of the Western world's leaders, regardless of the type of company or organization they're leading, will never be recognized as great leaders for one simple reason: They were taught to be so "objective" that they lost whatever passion they started with.

So, if you want to be a great leader, learn from two of the best and act accordingly. If you do, be prepared to:

- upset a lot of others who prefer leadership as usual, where passion is considered inappropriate and procedures must be followed for the benefit of the majority,

- have more of an impact than ever before,

- and have some genuine fun along the way. Here's to your future!



John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...


I have a physics background, but trying to be like Einstein is a stupid thing to try. Maybe pick up some pointers, but I am not Einstein. And even Einstein was wrong about QM. So will Whitman succeed in her new Jobs? Not same as old so maybe her magic won't transfer. Different beast. Startup vs. Entrenched. Mercurial works in an exciting startup, not so much in a stable business. Time will tell, if Whitman has the Royal Jelly to work in a different world. I'm betting not and she will blame her failure on underlings without vision. And Steve Jobs would have failed as leader of Microsoft and definitely IBM. Just because a tool works well hammering in nails does not mean it can be used for screws.


It is not the management style per say, but that great leaders have passion, belief in themselves, drive, sometimes unable to listen to others and vision. You can try to emulate all of them, but the last. This is only proven in retrospect. Jobs and I guess Whitman (don't know much about her) have vision. A person with all the other characteristic could just drive an enterprise into ruin. CEO's who belief your rhetoric could be fooling themselves. 90% of CEO's will never be people of vision. That is a rare trait. Most CEO's should be trying to make the Enterprise better. And try to recognize those with vision and use them.

santeewelding 3 Like

When you can no longer hold "all employees" in thrall to "leadership" -- come to think of it: who [i]are[/i] those of Occupy Wall Street? -- then comes the day you are outed.


Anyone want to be a Soviet officer? /sarcasm off


Do you agree that passion can create greatness?

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