If you didn’t have time to read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, you can now read a shorter, condensed take on the Apple cofounder’s management style in an article Isaacson penned for the April Harvard Business Review called “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs.”
As you might expect, bloggers have already condensed Isaacson’s 7,000-word HBR article into “14 Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs.” So if you don’t even have time for Isaacson’s article, go straight to one of the summary posts that hit the blogosphere this week. This one by Bryan Chaffin in The Mac Observer will give you the highlights.
I’ve written about Jobs before (see related posts below), but I wanted to mention two key leadership lessons that I think go hand-in-hand: “focus” and “simplify.” Jobs was legendary for his ability to stay focused on those products and markets where he wanted Apple to dominate. Upon his return to Apple in 1997, he reduced Apple’s offerings to just a few core products. He jettisoned lines that weren’t profitable or didn’t fit into his vision for Apple. The company has stayed consistently focused since then, even as it moved into music (iPod) and mobile phones (iPhone). And, needless to say, it has done exceedingly well as a result of staying committed to its core business philosophy.
“Simplify, simplify,” Thoreau told us in “Walden.” Much of the Mac mystique has always centered on how simple, elegant and user-friendly Apple’s devices are. Their use is so intuitive that Apple has all but dispensed with manuals. But that simplicity extends to the company’s culture and is frankly the hallmark of its business model.
Jim Collins, one of the great chroniclers of outstanding business leadership, has said for years that businesses need to simplify and concentrate on what they do best. In his seminal book “Good to Great” he introduced the “hedgehog concept” to illustrate how great companies discern and then focus on what they are most passionate about. As he describes in a later article:
“The essence of a Hedgehog Concept is to attain piercing clarity about how to produce the best long-term results, and then exercising the relentless discipline to say, ‘No thank you’ to opportunities that fail the hedgehog test. When we examined the Hedgehog Concepts of the good-to-great companies, we found they reflected deep understanding of three intersecting circles: 1) what you are deeply passionate about, 2) what you can be the best in the world at, and 3) what best drives your economic engine.”
Collins has often said that great business leaders know when to eliminate those things that aren’t working. Sometimes those decisions are painful, but they almost always result in greater success than sticking with the status quo.
In this season of spring cleaning, now is a good time to throw out what isn’t working or is no longer necessary. Collins wrote an article for USA Today a few years ago about his annual “stop doing” list. It’s a great read and will get you thinking about what you need to really focus on in your life and business.