Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli points out that Job’s success in his second career at Apple depended not only on what he learned from the failures of NeXT and the successes of Pixar, but on him evolving personally, learning how to manage his weaknesses and fine tune his strengths. I went over some of his strengths in a previous post. So what were his characteristics that hampered him, especially earlier in his career? What were Steve Jobs’ weaknesses as a leader?
Steve Jobs’ weaknesses as a leader
Jobs didn’t take criticism well.
Jobs problems with authority are part of what led to his failures with the Apple III and the LISA.
School does teach you about authority.
Jobs’ hubris got in the way, in more ways than one.
This led to underestimating competitors, like IBM in the personal computer business. School class rank will teach you about competitors. But, at the same time, education likes to emphasize that you’re not better than anyone else.
Early on, Jobs found it impossible to compromise on his own ideas, and even later he found it difficult.
He would turn every discussion that didn’t go his way into a confrontation (which would discourage future voicing of disagreement), a yelling, screaming, nasty confrontation. By his second time at Apple, he might at first reject and idea, but hours or later he at least had the ability to change his mind. He also had developed the ability to reshape his goals as complications arose.
Early on, Jobs had a lack of generosity.
He kept a lot of people, even people key to Apple’s very early success who had been his close friends, out of Apple’s initial IPO (initial public stock offering), if he didn’t think they were currently crucial to Apple’s success. In other words, what have you done for me lately? This changed by the time of his second IPO with Pixar.
Jobs held grudges against people and companies.
Including a grudge against Adobe, which he never forgave for moving to support Windows when their market expanded and then they refused to write software for Apple’s OS X (Pronounced “OS Ten.” Really. I read it OS “X” the entire time but my tech expert pointed out my error, and I would hate to lead you astray) operating system when they only had a tiny market share. In other words, he couldn’t respect a decision, no matter what it was based on, if it wasn’t in his own best interest. Years later, the ipad didn’t support Adobe Flash, partially out of spite. (Both books said it was completely out of spite, but my tech expert says Adobe Flash did have some significant technical failings a this point.)
Focusing on a target audience (business) where he thought he could make money, but really wasn’t interested in.
Going back over these “weaknesses” I noticed that many of them can be seen as flip side to some of the very strengths that led Jobs to success. Namely, his ability to believe in himself and stubbornly support the brilliant people around him, absolutely and without question. If he had been more open to criticism, less sure of himself, more likely to compromise, or more inclined to let others in authority tell him what he could and couldn’t do, how would his engineers ever attempted the iphone with its impossibly tiny electronics and unbreakable screen?
Now that I’ve gone over the skills, both strengths and weaknesses, in my next post, I’ll go over some steps for becoming a successful entrepreneur that I learned from reading Steve Jobs and Becoming Steve Jobs. Some of them of the opposite of what I’ve previously read about advice for entrepreneurs.