L2L Book Review: “Steve Jobs”

L2L Book Review

Questions: As growing leaders in the business world, we might ask ourselves these questions.

  • Why are some people and organizations more innovativeinfluential, and profitable than others?
  • Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees?
  • Why do some have repeat success?

Question Behind the Questions:

What can we do to enhance this in our organizations?”

L2L Book Review

To continue answering the questions above, we go to another book in our series called L2L Book Review

Title: Steve Jobs

by Walter Isaacson

The quote on the first page of this biography grabbed me:

Steve Jobs“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” ~  Apple’s Think Different commercial, 1997

Steve Jobs did it!

I had heard a lot about this long book, and prior to reading it I had mixed opinions about Steve Jobs; ranging from deep admiration to “What a jerk!

It is a long read, but one I could not put down. Walter Isaacson engaged me from page one through page 571. This is a book about the roller coaster life and intense personality of a very creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized SIX industries. It is amazing to me.

This book is both instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values. I now better understand Steve Jobs and  think differently about him.

What follows are a few of the many best and worst practices shared:

  • Once he’s decided that something should happen, he’s made it happen.
  • Pretend to be completely in control and people will assume that you are.

Even though Jobs’s style could be demoralizing, it could also be oddly inspiring. It infused Apple employees with an abiding passion to create groundbreaking products and a belief that they could accomplish what seemed impossible. They had t-shirts made that read “90 hours a week and loving it.”

  • Due to fearing Steve Jobs as well as having an incredible urge to impress him, his employees exceeded their own expectations.

“By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things.”- Steve Jobs

  • You have to be ruthless if you want to build a team of engaged “A players” that deliver results.

“It’s too easy, as a team grows, to put up with a few B players, and then attract a few more B players, and soon you will even have some C players. The Macintosh experience taught me that A players like to work with other A players, which means you can’t indulge in B players.”

  • One of Jobs’s great strengths was knowing how to focus.

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” he said, “that’s true for companies and it’s true for products.”

Loving What You Do


  •  At a strategy session he yelled “Stop, this is crazy.” He grabbed a magic marker at a white board and drew a horizontal and vertical line to make a four squared chart. “This is what we need.” Atop the two columns he wrote, consumer and pro and he labeled the two rows, desktop and portable. Their job he said was to make 4 great products one for each quadrant and NO more.
  • One year Jobs took his most valuable employees on a retreat. At the end he would stand in front of a whiteboard and ask, “What are the 10 things we should be doing next?” People would fight to get their suggestions on the list, and Jobs would write them down then cross off the ones he decreed dumb. After much jockeying, the group would come up with a list of 10. Then Jobs would slash the bottom seven and announce, “We can do only three.”
  • “The older I get, the more I see how much motivation matters. The Zune was crappy because the people at Microsoft don’t really love music or art the way we do. We won because we personally love music. We made the iPod for ourselves, and when you’re doing something for yourself, or your best friend, or family, you’re not going to cheese out. If you don’t love something you are not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo as much.”

“What I learned about Steve was that people mistook some of his comments as ranting or negativism, but it was really just the way he showed passion. So that’s how I processed it, and I never took issues personally.” -Cook

This aligns with what I preach in my DiSC assessment work.  See here

  • Jobs’s genius is that he knows how to make things simple, and that sometimes requires controlling everything.

“If the vision is compelling; the journey is the reward.”

  • Like his father, he was motivated by love of what he did and a pride in the products he was making.
  • His most salient traits; intensity and quest for perfection.
  • Some leaders push innovations by being good at the big picture. Others do so by mastering details. Jobs did both, relentlessly. As a result he launched a series of products over three decades that transformed 6 major industries.
  • “Some people say give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do.

Henry Ford once said:

“If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me ‘a faster horse!’”

“People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

“Skate where the puck’s going, not where it’s been.”- Wayne Gretzky

Main Theme & Takeaways

The main theme and takeaway for me from this book is the importance of focus.

What are the top five things you want to focus on?

Steve Jobs CandleGet rid of the rest because they will drag you down. His management mantra was focus. This ability to focus saved Apple.

Jobs became the greatest business executive of our era and I believe the one most certain to be remembered a century from now.

Steve Jobs changed many, many lives. I do not own one Apple product and most likely never will. I guess you would not call me an “Apple fan” and I certainly was not a Steve Jobs fan or big admirer, but this book changed that for me.

What surprised me the most was when I went to our local mall a few days following his death and saw the store front filled with flowers and post-it notes written to Steve, my eyes welled up with tears. He has many raving fans and I now include myself in that list.

I would love to know how he has changed your life and or lessons you learned from reading his biography.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Kristi Royse

Kristi Royse is CEO of KLR Consulting
She inspires success in leaders and teams with coaching and staff development

Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | Articles | Services | (650) 578-9626

Image Sources: graphics8.nytimes.com, best-ipod-online.com, i.telegraph.co.uk

6 responses to “L2L Book Review: “Steve Jobs”

  1. Pingback: L2L Book Review: “Steve Jobs” « Linked 2 Leadership | Pulplit Magazine·

  2. Pingback: That Was Random - That State of The World Today | That Was Random .com - Sharing Random Videos, Images and More. Sharing Random Stuff from Present to Nostalgic·

  3. Kristi,

    Like you, until I read the book I had mixed feelings about Steve Jobs. However, I found myself inspired and even a little disappointed in myself for all the times I excepted mediocrity. The guy was truly amazing – authentic, passionate, and completely tuned in to his creative genius. He might have been a little rough around the edges but his other qualities more than made up for it.

    You did an excellent job with this review and I couldn’t agree more!


  4. In answer to your first set of questions, I have found in close to four decades of helping institutions from all sectors rethink their stakeholder engagement strategies that those who deeply engage their internal stakeholders (i.e.: employees, board, etc), their external stakeholders of choice (i.e.: customers, suppliers, etc) and even their potentially adversarial external stakeholders (i.e.: government regulators, NGO watchdog groups, etc) are far more successful.


    • Nadine – I get your point, but “far more successful” than Steve Jobs? Who is? What are your criteria and metrics for assessing success? I personally am not a fan of Jobs, as I value the relational aspect of getting business done far more than he did. He left many people broken in his wake and his success is entirely in the debt of people like Woz. So I am not trying to defend him, but to suggest another approach is “more successful” I have to ask what you mean by success. I look forward to hearing your answer!

      Will Armstrong
      Leadership Development | ICF International


  5. Pingback: Leaders: Be Bad Long Enough to Become Good | Linked 2 Leadership·

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