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Steve Jobs: Leader

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I’m sure the world will be flooded with tributes to Steve Jobs and I wanted to add one more celebration of a great life and a great leader.  I’m not an IT expert and my focus here is the man’s leadership.

It’s a personal belief I have that his success as a global leader, in part was due to the way he guarded his own privacy and family life. We’re better able to go out and lead when we have a place we can go back to and be totally ourselves with people we love.

A few words first about empathy and dealing with loss.

What I noticed yesterday, after I heard the news, was that my own thoughts and emotions turned to those I love the most and without whom I would be bereft.  When sadness touches us, the oxygen in our systems rush to the heart.

  • For those of you who felt a  moment of emotion at the news; this is empathy – this is normal
  • Feeling challenged about talking about death is normal – and needs to be done
  • For those of you who also have experience a close loss – this length of time is normal too

For those who will be more profoundly mourning Steve Jobs’ loss this will continue for anything up to two years.

Bereavement is not a linear experience; we don’t get ‘better and better’ every day.  Sometimes the slightest event can trigger a reminiscence – yet it’s important not to ignore that loss:  people need to talk about their loved ones and yes, bring their emotions to work.  As leaders, we can create and support an environment where this is possible – and supports a positive and successful work environment.

Yes, addressing something so sensitive is challenging the first time we do it.  But it needs doing.  Some of my clients work in dangerous industries and it’s a salutory reminder of the responsibilities of leadership when you have to tell a wife or family member that their loved one won’t be coming home.

Back to Steve Jobs and the Apple corporation

My first awareness of Steve Jobs and the Apple corporation was back in the mid ’80s – when I worked in the City of London.  I looked after the building and facilities and we were shifting away from the single ‘mega-computer’.  It’s memory was tiny compared to today’s machines, but it required its own room, an air conditioning unit and a false floor to spread the weight loading.

One of our senior Brokers had persuaded his Director to invest in a Macintosh computer and it was tiny – and well designed.  When the corporate diktat came from on high that we were going over to a rival PC-based system, this person clung onto his Apple for dear life.  It wasn’t just the design of the kit; my colleague argued that the Macintosh was more efficient at doing the complex work that he needed.  It was easier to use, less prone to crashing and certainly better at keeping out spam.  Our company was one of the first in the world to have a global in-house email system – so we experienced the downside of emails long before it became a household application.

People often link the ‘apple’ name and logo to the Beatles, and the link to Alan Turning – father of modern computers – is often forgotten.  Turing is said to have died by eating a poisoned apple – hence the bite out of the side of the Apple logo.  So if there is a part of heaven reserved for computer experts, two visionaries will be playing their harps today instead of one.  Of course, they’re probably programming a computer to do it for them.

RIP Steve Jobs


Author: Helen Caton Hughes

Leadership and Team Coach based on inspirational and practical tools. Works with leaders around the world; trains coaches to International Coach Federation standards. Passionate about finding best ways for leaders to inspire themselves and get the best from their teams

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