I’m in the midst of reading Steve Jobs ’ Biography which I’ve been enjoying whilst absorbing the Auckland summer sun.
Steve Jobs was an incredible human being. I think we all recognise this. But his methods of working with people have been challenged and brought into question many times by many people – especially after his death. I’ve found it fascinating to read the biography and take look into the life, attitude and practices that Steve Jobs lived.
Today, let’s take a look at how he chose to interact with people, and why this worked when working with rebels at Apple.
Steve was an artist. A believer and upholder of perfection, fineness and distinction. Take a second to understand that about him. Understand that this is what drives him. Understand that this is what he expects of other people. And, understand that he wanted to lead a company that produced perfection.
Not every human being understands or wishes to pursue perfection. In fact, a very small portion of humanity even believes perfection is possible. Steve understood this paradigm. But, he also understood that this was a mindset. And, minds can be changed and shaped and moulded.
Steve knew that any person could be a perfectionist. And, he had a method of producing this in people. He created himself as an authority. He created himself as the benchmark. If Steve said something was “shit”, then you knew you had to do more, try harder, achieve closer to perfection.
Once you understood this about Steve, and you start to learn that you too are producing perfection, you finally have the leg to stand on and challenge him.
Steve created a pathway to perfection. First, you would have the shit beaten out of you so that your mind and ego were supple and manageable. Second, you would be challenged to reach perfection. Third, you would reach perfection and be challenged by Steve, at which point you returned fire and stood for your work. And finally, you would be rewarded with recognition and respect for your work. After working with Steve and walking this pathway, you emerge as a wholly different person. A transformed human being.
For this alone, Steve was an enlightened being. He created a pathway to realisation and he “guided” (aka pushed) you through it. It may not be the perfect way for everyone, but it was one way to do it.
The second incredible feat that Steve achieved was to create a functioning organisation of rebels. It is well-known that Steve’s hiring philosophy was to create teams out of rebels (“the Pirates”). These are people who refuse to follow rules. Who fight the system. Who listen to no one. These are entrepreneurs, visionaries and the elite of the intellectual bracket. But these are also the most powerful people around. They choose to act. They choose to do things. They are the ones that change the world.
Have you any idea how difficult it is to bring thousands of these people together into a team? It is impossible!
The only way to have achieved this outcome would have been to be like Steve Jobs. To cut them down to size and show them that they are nothing compared to their potential. To push them to breaking point. To remove their ego and their beliefs.
Steve did what he had to do to create an organisation completely filled with entrepreneurs. He created an ecosystem where people of the highest intellect and ego would be broken down and rebuilt into transformed human beings, who believed anything was possible, and that they could be the ones to produce “anything is possible”.
Without this understanding and without this methodology, Steve could not have created Apple (or Pixar). No one could have achieved this. It is a prerequisite for the result.
Steve was a great man. He achieved the impossible. His gang of rebels achieved great things. But none of that was possible without the systematic breaking down of egos of the most rebellious and powerful people on earth – entrepreneurs.
But, if Steve was the reason that this gang of rebels were kept in line, and were kept performing, what now?
What about the future of Apple? Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs.
How will Apple continue to be what it has been without this great savant at the helm?