The world mourned the passing of an iconic innovator when Apple’s Steve Jobs died in October. There has been no shortage of articles on how business leaders can emulate the great man. But is that really possible, and will mimicking Jobs’ management style change your company for the better?
According to Chunka Mui, writing for Forbes.com, attempting to copy Jobs is akin to an amateur golfer trying to imitate a pro. It’s a nice idea in theory, but virtually impossible in practice. “Resist, therefore, the natural urge to be like Steve,” he says, adding: “Know that the most visible elements of his style were just surface manifestations of his genius, not the secrets to his success.”
In particular, there are five aspects of Jobs’ style and philosophy that Mui urges leaders not to try to emulate. These are:
1) Customers don’t know what they want. Jobs once told Businessweek: “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
But Mui points out: “Without Jobs’ talents and the unparalleled creative team and processes that he built around himself, you won’t get away with doing no market research and not listening to your customers.”
2) Maintain obsessive secrecy. “Super secrecy” was applied to Apple’s products, and even the details of Jobs’ health problems. But the company could withstand pressure for more transparency “because its products consistently delighted customers and its results wowed investors”. This, says Mui, in combination with Jobs’ unique talents, allowed him to “carve out an exception for himself”.
3) Project a reality-distortion field. This refers to Jobs’ ability to “exert his knowledge, charisma, personality and persistence to convince anyone of anything”. Most managers are on safer ground working with reality.
4) Micromanage everything. Mui comments: “Micromanaging certainly worked for Jobs. But, think about every other micromanager that you’ve ever worked with. Did it work for them, or those who worked for them?”
5) Being abrasive. The author cites a Rolling Stone article which quotes early Apple employee Jeff Goodell describing Jobs as having “an abrasive personality”. People tolerated this, says Mui, because of the other special qualities he had, not because it was intrinsic to his success.
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