Five Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs

This is a guest post by Tor Constantino. He is a former journalist, has an MBA, and works in public relations where he has directly reported to several CEOs in his career. He lives near Washington, D.C. with his wife and two daughters. You can read his blog and follow him on Twitter.

Whether you’re a “Mac or PC,” the recent passing of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs at the age of fifty-six from pancreatic cancer provides a salient moment of reflection for any organizational leader.

Steve Jobs Introducing the new iPod - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #16850262

Photo courtesy of ©

Jobs’ legacy and impact on the world is likely to stretch far into the future compared to the brief thirty-five years of his professional career, which took seed in his family’s garage when the idea of Apple was planted with Stephen Wozniak in 1976.

Beyond his cultural and technological contributions, Jobs offers leadership lessons that can be gleaned from his own words. Below are five lessons from his quotes. They provide insight into the Steve Jobs’ “operating system” for life.

  1. The Risk Lesson. “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” The very nature of innovation requires a stark departure from the status quo and deviation from the norm. The best leaders have the vision to understand that fact and the tenacity to lead an organization to that future state despite organizational inertia and resistance.

    Jobs did this time and again as evidenced by the introduction of the Macintosh home computer in 1984, his subsequent departure and return to the company, right up to the latest iteration of the iPhone.

  2. The Succession Lesson. “…Some people say, ‘Oh, God, if [Jobs] got run over by a bus, Apple would be in trouble.’ And, you know, I think it wouldn’t be a party, but there are really capable people at Apple. My job is to make the whole executive team good enough to be successors, so that’s what I try to do.”

    Succession planning is one of the most important roles that senior leadership takes to ensure the long-term viability of an organization. The best companies and leaders strive to achieve this internally by ongoing talent assessment and pushing that planning below the executive level to ensure a funnel full of high potential individuals.

    Apple’s current CEO Tim Cook went through a similar grooming process since joining the company in 1998, collaborating with Jobs ever since in preparation to lead.

  3. The Mission Lesson. “Almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

    Many leaders are more inclined to lead with their head or their gut instincts, rather than their heart. Such an emotive mission simply seems too soft and may even be considered a weakness to traditional, hard-nosed leadership sensibilities.

    However, Jobs’ illness forced him to live from his passion and creativity, which produced revolutionary product innovations, growth and profits for the organization.

  4. The Team Lesson. “So when a good idea comes, part of my job is to move it around, just see what different people think, get people talking about it, argue with people about it, get ideas moving among that group of 100 people, get different people together to explore different aspects of it quietly, and—just explore things.”

    In virtually every area of life, teams make better decisions than individuals. While Jobs had a reputation of being difficult to work for, he routinely admitted to only hiring senior executives who were competent, smart, and “loved” Apple—so that they would put the interests of the organization ahead of their individual interests.

    The company’s success, high employee retention and consistent recognition as one of “best places to work” are proof of his team-centric philosophy.

  5. The Perseverance Lesson. “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

    Jobs is often referred to as both a genius and modern-day Thomas Edison. Interestingly, Edison’s driving perseverance is exemplified in his famous quote, “Genius is one percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration.”

    Few would disagree that Jobs embodied Edison’s quote, and perseverance is a requisite skill of all effective leaders.

Not only did Jobs lead an extraordinary company, he led an extraordinary life—and we’re the better for it. If you’re not familiar with details of his background and intriguing upbringing, consider reading the new biography by Walter Isaacson. It is currently #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Question: How has Steve Jobs’ vision and technology impacted you personally or professionally? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Sachin Kundu

    Thanks Tor for this insightful write up.

    What I have learned from Steve is “Believe in Yourself”.

    No matter what happens, believe.

    • TorConstantino

      Sachin, that’s a powerful lesson – if you can’t believe in yourself it’s virtually impossible for  anyone  else to believe in you! Great perspective!

      • Jleriger

        If Steve Jobs could come back from where he is right now, what do you think he would tell us? You can rest assured he wouldn’t be talking about how great he was.  All of his genius and products that reflected it, are irrelevant to him now, because if he never accepted Jesus as his Lord and saviour he’s in torment and regret right now.  If God allowed him to come back, Steve Jobs would be the Greatest Evangelist that this world has ever know accept for Jesus.

        • TorConstantino

          JL, interesting observations. While Jobs definitely leaned towards Eastern religions I think the tools he left behind can be leveraged to maximize connectivity and create a platform for virtually any message – including Christian evangelism.

          Case in point, the Romans were pagans in the tradition of the Hellenistic culture they conquered and co-opted, yet their intricate and safe highway system literally “paved” the way for first Century believers. 

          Jobs’ global mobile network affords a similar opportunity as the Romans’ did.

          • Damilola Okuneye

            Steve’s achievement should actually spur on others to do more- especially believers .

          • Joe Abraham

            Are not God’s ways amazing and extraordinary! Whether it be a Roman byroad or an Apple iPod, God works out His will in sovereign ways!

  • Joe Abraham

    First-class post, Tor!

    When I think of Steve Jobs, the first thought that comes running to my mind is the word “excellence”.  I am fascinated by his excellent products – not only by their highly competitive appearance but also by their immense usability functions. I believe that was Steve’s vision: excellence in quality & quantity! I seek to adopt that vision. Imagine what would happen if every company, church and enterprise would adopt it!

    • TorConstantino

      Joe, you’re absolutely correct about Jobs’ penchant for excellence – it definitely deserves a spot on this list. I think the driver for his excellent products you mentioned was a spirit of innovation.

      In an article I read about him once, Jobs quipped that he strove to develop “lickable” technology – you read that correctly “lickable” not merely “likable.” His point for using that strange word was that he wanted to create captivating products that evoked a sensory, emotive response in users. I’ve never heard a leader with that kind of outlook. 

      • Joe Abraham

        Wow! I think that kind of innovative spirit is what kept him separate from others as far as excellence is concerned.

    • Anonymous

      Joe, you are bang on with this one: In reading the biography, it’s almost comical how obsessed he was. It’s interesting to discover that he learned that objective from his father, who taught him that every piece in a product, even if it is not seen by the users, should be the best, or the whole product isn’t the best. It’s part of what drove the conflict between Apple and Microsoft.

      • Joe Abraham

        Thanks for that biographical info, Dan! A real quest for excellence isn’t satisfied with mere hype; it needs to create the best stuff even if the best is hidden inside or shown outside!

    • TNeal

      Excellent addition. Although I’m not a Mac guy, I know that an iPod, the one Apple product in our home, has been a wonderful addition based on its simplicity, usability, and excellence.

      • Joe Abraham

        I agree with you on that Apple product, TNeal!

      • Jeff Randleman

        I like Apple TV for the same reason!

  • Chris Patton

    Great post, Tor!

    When I see what he said about the “Team Lesson” – spreading ideas around, I think of Jack Welch.  I am reading his book “Straight From The Gut” right now and that is one of the ways he led at GE.  Prior to his years as CEO, GE was not know for this, but he was determined to tear down the walls between departments and businesses within GE.  The results were astounding!

    Thanks for the lesson!

    • TorConstantino

      Chris, thanks for the kind words. I agree with you that Jack Welch was another visionary leader who broke traditions and paradigms to drive results. Coincidentally, I had the pleasure of reporting to a CEO named Joe Clayton while working for a northeast telecom company in the mid-1990s.

      Joe had worked at GE as a VP of consumer electronics under Welch. I have the  highest regard for Joe, and he told me that the greatest leader he ever knew or worked for was Jack Welch. I believe that Jack and Jobs share a commonality in that they were both true originals!

  • Nathan Harsh Brown Chitty

    Question: How has Steve Jobs’ vision and technology impacted you personally or professionally?Answer: In his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address one of his three points was about “Connecting the Dots” looking back our lives make sense but when we are in the midst of change and difficulties, we don’t see how connected events in our lives become. This impacted me to persevere in difficulties.
    I did a mindmap of the speech and have over 100,000 views. Here is the mindmap

    • TorConstantino

      Nathan, I watched your 5:34 mindmap video – excellent work! I really liked how you captured the highlights of Jobs’ Stanford address as well as the critical details such as the impact that his study of calligraphy/typography played in his development of the early Macintosh system.  Great closing quote from Jobs, “Stay hungry and stay foolish.” Unfortunately, I think that kind of outlook is often “educated” out of us….

  • Sherri

    Some food for thought on Steve Jobs from James Emery White ….Church and Culture Blog 8/29/11–A Most Curious Hero.  Steve Jobs great talent….leadership qualities as mentioned…..but what about his character???Read the blog…to me  character is the number one quality of a leader!

    • TorConstantino

      Hi Sherri, I think you’re spot on in your observation that character and integrity are overarching imperatives for leaders. It’s not enough to deliver results – they must be delivered the right way. Simply stated, Machiavelli was wrong….the ends do not justify the means. 

    • Joe Lalonde

      Great food for thought Sherri. I often struggle seeing leaders who excel professionally but lack character.

    • Jeff Randleman

      Agreed!  I don’t know enough about Steve Jobs, but any leader who lacks character has a serious problem.

  • Mike Hansen

    This week it dawned on me that he helped start Pixar. I knew that. But since his death his creative genius has been quite inspirational to me. It is causing in me a desire to create like no other time in my life. Pixar has also done the same thing-where when I see the near perfection of a Pixar movie I am inspired to want to be like the people behind the scenes of a Toy Story 2 (my personal favorite of all Pixar gems) or any of them for that matter! That has been in my head for years before I knew he had been the creative horsepower behind Pixar’s success. It has been this week that I realized there’s a reason why both the man behind Apple and Pixar the company inspire me…because of Steve’s legacy and influence. I hope I can leave behind even a fraction of what he has.

    Thanks for the lessons.

    • TorConstantino

      Great comment Mike! I’m a huge fan of the Pixar products as well. Every Pixar movie touches and explores aspects of the human condition in an inspiring way. I hold the same aspiration as you – thanks for sharing!

  • John Richardson

    Insightful post Tor!The one thing about Steve Jobs that has impacted my life was his
    intense focus on doing one thing right. His quote on focus is powerful…

    think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on.  But that’s not what it means at all.  It means saying no to the hundred other good
    ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.  I’m actually as proud of the things we
    haven’t done as the things I have done. 
    Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”

    When he returned in Apple in 1997, he
    took a company with 350 products and reduced them to 10 products in a two-year
    period, so he could put the “A-Team” on each product. His intense focus produced amazing devices, revealed one at a time, with the passion and love that only he could show.First it was the iPod, which along with iTunes, revolutionized the music industry. Then there was the iPhone, which changed the way we interact with our phones. Then came the iPad, which was a product that was way ahead of its time. Each one was greatly anticipated. Each one changed the way we live, work, and play.If I’ve learned one thing from Steve, it’s this…Dream BIG, really big, and then focus intently on bringing that dream to reality.

    • TorConstantino

      John, you make SO many good points in this comment! Focus is forced attention on the things that matter most.  Coach Lou Holtz calls it his What’s Important Now or W.I.N. strategy. I really like the point you made that focus must be coupled with superb decision making at culling out the also-rans – otherwise it can’t be called “focus” and is merely wasted energy.

    • Dave

      Thank you John for bringing up this point.  A perfect comment for me at this moment.  This principle is not always easy to keep in focus when you need it most.  To develop that discipline takes great effort.

  • Anonymous

    How has Steve Jobs impacted me personally and professionally? 
    Firstly, I’m writing this on a macbook, but first read the post on my iPad, which says a lot considering I’m a computer consultant / trainer who specializing in Microsoft products. My clients always raise their eyebrows when I walk into meetings with my macbook, until I show them how on a mac I can run Windows, Mac and Open Source side & side simultaneously, without a crash. Then they listen.

    Secondly, as a trainer, I’ve revised my PowerPoint/Keynote lessons to incorporate much of the key points from “Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs”, coupled with my “prime directive” lesson: “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.”

    Thirdly, as an occasional speaker, I strive to create every speech as a presentation again along the lines of a Jobs’ presentation. I have witnessed both an increase in positive feedback and further interest to my speaking since making the conscience decision to change to this more time-consuming approach.

    Lastly, I have almost all of Pixar’s movies on my iPad. Well on my storage device, which I can quickly pull to the macbook or iPad in seconds.

    • TorConstantino

      Dan, great insight – I especially like your “prim directive” – just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. That’s a great lesson!

  • Kelly Combs

    “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – I can’t think of many who are more innovative than Jobs.  He brought us so much new technology, and was himself made both renowned and wealthy.  However, in the end, while those things gave him legacy, they did not bring him life.  I think another lesson we can learn from his life is don’t put off your goals until tomorrow, for we are not assured of any tomorrows.

    • TorConstantino

      Kelly, that’s great insight – we truly need to do the best in this current moment, because that’s all we have, while hoping it positions us for the next moment.

  • Anonymous

    I just started reading Jobs’ biography yesterday.  It will be interesting to see the long-term impact of his life.  
    Afterthought:  My first computer class was taught in a room with Apple IIe’s.  Green and black screens, 5.25 floppies, BASIC and LOGO.  Those were the days….

    • TorConstantino

      Karl, I graduated in 1987 and had the same experience in my first BASIC programming class. We’ve come a long way from “If …Then” statements.

      • Anonymous

        GOTO, and GOSUB, anyone?

        I also remember playing a golf game that required you to choose a direction from 0 to 360 degrees and a percentage for how hard to swing. The graphics were horrible, but I could have played it for hours.

  • Pingback: Steve Jobs’ Leadership Lessons – My Guest Post for Michael Hyatt | The Daily Retort()

  • Garrison

    I read the post and am now responding on my iPod touch A little bit later on today I will be sitting down at my Mac to do some more involved work. I also know that my children have experienced and will continue to benefit from his work. Technology aside we all have a lot to learn from the way he ran his organization

    Thank you for the post

    • TorConstantino

      And thank you Garrison for your comment – it’s appreciated!

  • Daren Sirbough

    Genius is 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration. I’m going to try and make that my Vision. I love the thought!

    • TorConstantino

      It’s a proven winner Daren, thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  • Cyberquill

    I love my iPod. 

    • TorConstantino

      I love mine too – especially for long marathon training runs. In the old Walkman cassette player days, I was forced to listen to the same :45 minute tape over and over. Talk about boring!

      • Cyberquill

        Yep, and all that extra weight one had to schlepp along, what with tape and batteries and all.

        Eventually, our entire sound library will be available to us 24/7 via a virtually weightless chip implanted into our cochlea and operated by our thoughts.

        Now that Mr Jobs is gone, alas, this technology may take a bit longer to be available at the Apple store than it would be under his ingenious leadership.

        • Jeff Randleman


    • Jeff Randleman

      :)  I have three.  I have a Touch that I use for everything.  I have an old (really old) first generation mini.  It had the non-color screen!  And I have a small nano that I clip on my shirt for running.  All three of them come in handy!

  • John Harris

    Regarding “The Team Lesson,” I don’t think this applies to Jobs. He was notorious for stepping in front of other people’s ideas (Pixar) and taking the credit, berating employees in public, etc. He was not a true team player. 

    Your post on this only reflects that teams make better decisions yet Jobs was the final decision maker bar none. It was his show and he often said no to someone’s idea only to turn around later and say he loved it without crediting others. He inspired his team but was not a team player.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Interesting take on this John. I had heard many people mention similar things regarding Steve.

    • TorConstantino

      John, you’re absolutely correct that Jobs’ had the final say on everything and was controlling. I agree that he may not have been a team player in the traditional sense, because he was more of a coach/owner who espoused a team mentality. The buck stopped with him.

      Jobs was a brand and people who work/ed at Apple knew they supported the co-brands of Jobs and Apple.  

  • Michael Quattlebaum

    Great insight into just a few components that made Steve Jobs a great leader.  He transformed the way we think and the way we play as a society.  He recognized the value of creativity, and the clarity of thought that comes from following your heart.  He perfected the art of clean, simple design and gave it value, while understanding the big picture and how it impacted the consumer and his company. 

    Who will be the “next” Steve Jobs?  Someone with the same genius, creativity, heart, and attention to detail.  Someone who can be a tough leader, and make you love it all the while.  Someone who has clear vision, and a means to achieve that vision…even when everyone says it’s impossible.

    Great post.

    • TorConstantino

      Michael, you’re very kind. Personally, I think it’ll be tough to identify the “next” Steve Jobs because that type of genius tends to be contrarian in nature and bucks the establishment. The likes of Jobs, Gates and Einstein literally fell off the grid because their ideas and temperaments didn’t fit the traditional educational mold.

      • Dave

        Hmm…maybe we need to do something about this “traditional educational mold?”  Not sure we another Steve Jobs, God only intended to make one of him.  We are who we are, no less no more.  In the same vein, I am as I am.  As people are at liberty to be who they are created to be, they will rise as far as God intended: socially, physically, intellectually, emotionally, & spiritually.  This “mold” keeps more people in the dark (in chains) as to who they are than perhaps any other factor in our modern society.

  • Ferdi van den Bergh

    This guy seemed normal – straight forward – honnest – not too too serious, but not ignorant by any means. 

    It’s when your drive is your passion that people start noticing! 

    • TorConstantino

      I like your point Ferdi, “…when your drive is your passion…people start noticing.” Awesome!

  • Rob Sorbo

    I’m not an Apple person. I personally find a lot of their products to be quite unintuitive, but probably only because I was raised on PC and have done a lot of work with them. One thing that I do like about Apple and Jobs’ work is the buzz they can create. If you can create the kind of buzz that they do, then people will line up to buy anything.

    • TorConstantino

      Great point Rob! It’s not just about creating a “better mousetrap” – that contraption has to be marketed and Apple is a marketing juggernaut. 

      I’m amazed that a week before the official announcement of every iteration of the new iPhone – someone “accidentally” leaves samples of the “unveiled” phone at hot spots frequented by influential bloggers for TechCrunch and Gizmodo. 

      The bloggers write about the gadgets and those “accidents” are always picked up and amplified by mainline media every time.  As a former journalist, it’s CLEARLY guerrilla marketing at its best!

    • Dave

      The interesting thing about Apple is that they have kept growing.  Two things keep you growing according to your hype: truth in message, or the ignorance of your audience.  You generally don’t sustain growth if your product doesn’t match it’s hype – that’s why the internet/web bubble burst and the housing market busted – there was no substance undergirding what was hyped.  In the case of these two busts, most of the clients(audience) were ignorant about how it all worked.

      People are buying Apple products because they do what Apple says they do, they do it well, and they are well ahead of all the copycats.  They are copycats because that’s all the MS Win crowd has ever been.  MS crowd certainly grew, but it sure gobbled up a lot of resource to achieve what Apple has achieved with far less.  Just look at the mass of products out there on the market that are mimicking what Apple does with far fewer products (as noted in an earlier post, when Jobs took over once again there were 350 Apple products and he hacked it down to 10.)  The mass of wannabes is huge compared to the limited breadth of product offering in the Apple kiosk at Best Buy – and yet Apple grows.  Great “buzz” yeah!  But ultimately, the products substantiate the message & truthfulness of the advertising.

  • James Williams

    At the risk of trampling on the dead, I find this list unimpressive. Many dictators have employed the same five characteristics.
    I find it hard to separate Steve Jobs the great visionary from Steve Jobs, the man who belittled his employees, who ruined careers, who made his subordinates work long hours at the expense of time with their families. I have no admiration for this man at all, so I am inclined to not want to follow his alleged principles for success.  I consider myself much more of a success than him, because I come home at 5:00, hug my kids, kiss my wife, and treat the 4 employees who work for me with dignity and respect.

    • TorConstantino

      James, thanks for your perspective. I think you make a valid argument in some respects – for instance I don’t subscribe to Jobs’ Eastern leaning beliefs and I applaud you dedication to your family. However, I think it just proves that reasonable people – such as you and me – can still discuss our different viewpoints in a positive manner. Thanks again for sharing!

  • TNeal

    iPod. That’s the most direct link I have to Steve Jobs and Apple. I appreciate his humble beginnings and the fact he was adopted, an interesting story in itself. As an adoptive father, I have an example that serves as encouragement to my techno-savvy son.

    Thanks for sharing your observations of Steve Jobs’ life through the lens of leadership. Well done.

    • TorConstantino

      TNeal, thanks for your positive feedback – but you deserve a lot of credit yourself as an adoptive father as well. Who knows how many lives your son may touch – kudos my friend!

  • Ava Jae

    Boy, how hasn’t his vision and technology impacted our lives? iPods, the push of touch screens, the emergence of tablets, even his vision of beauty in technology design and visually appealing fonts goes back to Jobs. 

    His commencement address is one of my favorite speeches. He was incredibly wise and inspirational–a visionary we will never forget. 

    • TorConstantino

      Ava, I can’t disagree with any of your points – thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Brandon Weldy

    I once had an ipod touch but gave it to someone because they let us use their car for a couple months while we had none. I couldn’t pay her back and she was looking to buy one so I believe it was a win-win. 
    I have heard a lot about the life of Steve Jobs and his leadership. I am glad you wrote this to take a peek into the leadership he offered. I may not be a MAC (more because of funds not because I care one way or the other) but I greatly admire what Jobs did and what he has taught others in the process.

    • TorConstantino

      Absolutely Brandon! Jobs’ legacy, lessons and life will stretch far beyond the products he created. His unorthodox tactics and personality are certain to be fodder for Harvard Business Review case studies for decades.

  • Rob Still

    Hey Tor, congrats on a very fine guest post! I love this perspective:

     “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid
    the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.
    There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

    Amen to that. Well done.

    • Wanza Leftwich, TGW

      I absolutely LOVED this quote. It resonates within my soul. Thank you for this post!

    • TorConstantino

      Rob I really appreciate your kind words – I’m glad you liked it!

  • Tod Shuttleworth

    I am about half way through the book. Jobs was an amazingly unique individual. His passion and conviction drove his persistence. He would have been considered a tyrant in the corporate world, and perhaps it illustrates how outside the corporate box you have to be to truly do great life-changing innovative things. 

    • TorConstantino

      I agree with you Tod that he was truly an iconoclast who didn’t play the game by traditional business rules. His unconventional thinking allowed him to make connections and see opportunities that other computing pioneers ignored including big players such as IBM, Sperry and Xerox.

  • Sutton Parks

    I’m reading this on my Ipad while my IPhone is ringing. Jobs was an anomaly. Few people will have the courage, belief and love he had to push through and persevere. That is why he will be classified with Disney, Ford and Edison. Instead of innovating, most leaders are cutting costs, playing it safe and focusing on the bottom line.

    Steve lived according to his values, not mine. He left the world a better place. Maybe his family suffered, maybe it didn’t. It is easy to throw rocks at stars.

    • TorConstantino

      Thanks for the comment Sutton! You make a great point that Jobs played to win, whereas many of his contemporaries merely play “not to lose” – the difference is vast!

  • Wanza Leftwich, TGW

    I have not read the book and I do not know much about Mr. Jobs’ lifestyle, but this I will say, he changed they way we think and communicate. That is a huge accomplishment for anyone to accomplish. To see what was in his head – his ideas along with his staff come to fruition is simply amazing. I love the quote about ‘following your heart, you’re already naked.” It’s true – we all will die so why do we waste so much time on what other people think. It’s time to get real and accomplish our life’s purpose. 

    • TorConstantino

      “…It’s time to get real and accomplish our life’s purpose…” – that’s a profound statement Wanza, thanks for sharing it!

      • Anonymous

        Thank you.

  • Sboyd

    I do agree he had great success and was a great leader by the world’s standards.  Seems to me he gave up a lot of life to  be that successful.  

    He decided he didn’t want to serve a God that let people go hungry, so he was a seeker and didn’t seem to find peace. 

    His stubbornness may have caused him to die at an early age by not seeking right treatment.  We will never know that for sure. 

    For every positive trait it seems there was a negative one that came out. 

    He seemed to make life difficult for many people, and life is difficult enough without human’s striving for perfection.

    I appreciate the honesty,  and I started reading the book, but found it sad at the same time and sat it aside.  

    Although he was  successful he was always seeking perfection.  There is never perfection on this earth, not with people nor things.  We should always strive to do our best, it seems that he believed there was always room for improvement.  You can make improvements but business is business and when is it enough.   

    As good as he was a leader, innovator,  my hope is that he really found peace at the end with the creator of the universe.   

    May he be at rest.

    • TorConstantino

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment Sboyd. I think you make an excellent point regarding the inability of any of us to achieve perfection this side of eternity. Well said!

  • Cheri Gregory

    I’ve learned valuable “Communication Lessons” from watching Steve Jobs’ presentations. As a high school English teacher, I used to let the blank, bored looks on my right-before-lunch students’ faces dictate my presentation energy. I used to be rather apologetic about what I was making them listen to and do.

    Jobs reminds me that no matter how tough an audience I’m playing to, I’ve got to be sold on my product. I’ve got to model buy-in, enthusiasm, even awe. I’ve got to know and share the heart reasons why what we’re doing for the 40 minutes before lunch can, in fact, radically change my students’ lives.

    • TorConstantino

      That’s fantastic! Whether you’re selling cosmetics door-to-door or selling 10th graders on the need to avoid dangling participles  – enthusiasm sells. We need more teachers like you Cheri who are fully engaged in the education process.

  • Ryan Hanley

    First Tor, Great post.  Thank you.

    Second, how freaking powerful are ideas acted upon?  And just acted upon but learned from?  Success and failure do not matter if you are always learning and always moving ahead because the needle will trend up…

    Thank you again,

    Ryan H.

    • TorConstantino

      Ryan, no doubt! Words and ideas have power to change the world – consider the power and legacy behind following phrases:

      “We the people….”

      “I have a dream…”

      “In the beginning…”

  • Joe Lalonde

    Steve led quite an amazing life. Just like everyone else, he had his faults. But he has done great things for the technology field.

    Professionally, the technology he has pioneered has been a thorn in my side. I work as an IT Professional at a small manufacturing company. We use PCs in the office environment due to the programs we use. Quite often, new users will ask about Macs or iPads or iPhones. It gets old fast answering the same questions. While annoying as it is, I have to give Steve credit for the success he achieved in getting people to want his products.

    • Jeff Randleman

      He was a master at telling people what they wanted.

    • TorConstantino

      Joe, the disruptive technology that he founded has created a dynamic tension that continues to endure. On the bright side, that tension seems to ensure gainful employment for IT pros such as yourself to help techie washouts such as me ;-) Thanks for your expertise and sharing your insights!

  • Judy Allen

    What most impresses me about Steve Jobs’ genius is his ability to bring into existance entire new markets and to transform existing industries.  No one knew they needed an iPad until he produced one.  The music industry is changed forever because of iPods and iTunes.  It seems almost prophetic that his name was Jobs. 

    • TorConstantino

      Judy, you’re spot on – his ability to create demand and execute is second to none. SONY has tried to do similar types of closed system distribution models such as iTunes – but they’ve been ineffective. I think his ability to ID and exploit markets was due to the elegance of the solutions he provided to complex needs.

  • idelette

    Great article, thank you! I am a big Steve Jobs fan and I have been an Apple girl for just about forever, it seems. I really appreciate the leadership lessons you’ve gleaned from his life. For me, his leadership gave me permission to lead with creativity, innovation and from the heart. I think he embodied what Daniel Pink calls “A Whole New Mind.” 

    • TorConstantino

      I love your point Idelette, “…lead with creativity…” – that’s a mantra that seems to be lost in our current public education. We’ve all heard some version of the statistic that 100% of Kindergarteners raise their hands when asked if they’re an artist, but by sixth grade that percentage drops below 20%. For some reason, we seem to be killing the creative spirit of our kids….our future.

  • Anonymous

    His leadership is something to be reflected on. A great example of mixing business acumen with aesthetic sensibilities.

    • TorConstantino

      Great comment Jeff – very Jobs-ian in its precision ;-)

  • Dave

    I can echo many of the sentiments mentioned so far, so I will simply tell my experience of the products Steve helped into existence:

    I was in college 1983-1985, my roommate owned a PC and my pastor owned an early Mac.  I utilized the PC to write many papers during long nights.  My exposure to the Mac was minimal – mostly watching my pastor enthusiastically demonstrate new programs.  On occasion I fiddled with it (maybe five total hours of activity.)
    Fast forward to late ’89.  I become interested in computers – thinking of work future, etc…  I walk into ComputerLand and sit down at a PC – can’t really get the thing to work.  I try to remember all the keyboard commands to make MS Word, Word Perfect, and Excel work – nothing.  I’m silently embarrassed – I recall the oodles of hours I spent using one.  I stroll over to a Mac.  I start exploring it, experimenting.  After half an hour I realize “I am actually using this computer!”  It was a very vivid “AHA!” moment, extraordinary to be honest.  I was enamored and intrigued.That Christmas season I got a job selling Macs (still didn’t own one) and continued in that role for another year and a half.  Then started to consult, teaching desktop publishing and helping configure Mac computer systems.  Life changed, but my love of Macs kept with me.  Unless a huge paradigm shift in computing takes place, as persuasive as my first “AHA” moment with a Mac, I see no compelling reason to change to any other platform.  Apple technology still remains central to many things I must do in my work and free time.By the way, lest you think I am myopic to the point of peripheral blindness – I do check out most new technologies that come along – smartphones, computers, etc… Can’t really escape my family and friends – who seem to think I am an universal technology support service.  Still, Steve Jobs vision of computer technology that  is innovative, intuitive, and visually attractive has never been equalled so comprehensively by any other company.

    • TorConstantino

      Jobs truly built a bridge between technology and the masses. Thanks for sharing your personal journey over that bridge Dave!

  • Scoti Springfield Domeij

    My son was the Army Ranger killed in Afghanistan in the last
    week or so. The night the two men appeared at my door with the news I never
    wanted to hear, that night God comforted me with “God numbers our
    days.” These words you wrote comforted me, “Almost everything—all
    external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these
    things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly
    important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to
    avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.
    There is no reason not to follow your heart.” Not only did he follow his
    passion, but was considered best at what he did.

    • TorConstantino

      My deepest condolences for your loss Scoti. Your comment puts a profound point on the ultimate reality that awaits all of us.

      I don’t want to abuse the courtesy that Michael has afforded me to write a guest post today – but Scoti, I’m compelled to share the eulogy I delivered at father’s funeral.  He died of a heart attack in his early 60’s after my mom died in a car crash 18 months prior.

      I hope this helps in some small way:

    • Michael Hyatt

      Scoti, I am so sorry and speechless. I can’t imagine the pain. May God help you.

  • Larry Galley

    I love the fact, Michael, that you are constantly striving to learn and then have the passion to share that learning with others.  This post is an excellent example of that practice.  Thanks so much for responding to what I believe are divinely inspired “tugs.”
    Larry Galley

    • TorConstantino

      Thanks Larry, Michael has indeed been a gracious and generous host!

  • Jeff Randleman

    I’m a recent apple convert.  But so far I’m loving the simplicity of everything it has to offer.  I’ve found myself trying to make sure that everything I do is just as simple and focused as I can make it.  I’m really ready to read his biography!

    • TorConstantino

      Jeff, I completely agree with your observation – the key distinction of all Apple’s designs seems to be simple elegance to meet complex needs.

      • Jeff Randleman

        Youth ministry is similar.  Teens live complex lives.  My ministry needs to stay as simple focused as I can make it.  Too much is, well… too much.

    • Joe Abraham

      Jeff, what you testified about Apple products and how it has affected your life style is really amazing! Simplicity begets simplicity!

      • Jeff Randleman

        I agree!  My wife and I are trying to simplify in as many areas of our lives as we can!

  • Damilola Okuneye

    The truth is Steve left an indelible on earth. Technology has forever changed the way we live & he played a major role in the process.

    • TorConstantino

      Well said Damilola!

  • TCAvey

    Excellent post on such a wonderful man.  I don’t think people realize all he has given to society.  I really like number 3, it has gotten me to thinking about risk taking and letting fear stand in the way.  Imagine if people like him didn’t take risks, we wouldn’t be the society we currently are.  I pray more people learn from the example of Steve Jobs. 
     Thank you for sharing about this great man. 

    • TorConstantino

      Thanks TCA! What really made Jobs unique among leaders was that he wasn’t afraid to lead with his heart. Good leaders often rely on their gut instinct or educational pedigree – but the best leaders strike an emotive cord that can inspire a team, organization or country.

      • TCAvey

        I couldn’t agree more!

  • Anonymous

    Steve Jobs left an amazing legacy. His life represents what a person can do if they focus on their passions and strengths.  He also shows that anyone can do and accomplish great things. These factors have greatly influenced my life. Great post.

    • TorConstantino

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here Dan – good stuff!

  • Ben Patterson

    Perseverance is huge.  There is a lot to be said for simply showing up.  Sure, I remember a few Sunday School lessons… but I REALLY remember my Sunday School teacher showing up week after week seemingly anxious to meet with our group.

    • TorConstantino

      Ben, I love that example and it’s indelible impression. If I wasn’t a Christian myself, I’d steal it ;-)

      • Ben Patterson

        Ha, thanks!

        Steal away and KEEP showing up :)

    • Joe Abraham

      That’s true, Ben! Perseverance pays!

  • Rob T

    Amazing guy, though plagued with demons and apparently a god-complex.  Wish he had read your book Tor!

    • TorConstantino

      Hah! Thanks Rob – you’re very kind in that regard. BTW, your post about mentoring today over on your site The Skipping Stone was great, I hope you don’t mind me sharing the link ->

  • meeklabs

    I’m not sure I agree with you that most leaders lead with their heads than with their hearts, at least in the SME market.  They lead with their gut, their emotions or what “feels” right, and it gets them in trouble.  Its part of the reason there is such a high failure rate within the first 5 years of business.  Business leaders rarely know how to lead.  They are usually good at coming up with an idea, or being persistent, but that simply isn’t enough to grow very far.

    A leader has to rely on both their head and their heart when leading. Too much of either gets you in trouble.  So adding the ability to learn is critical.  Steve would not have gotten as far as he did if he wasn’t capable of constantly learning and adapting.

    • TorConstantino

      I agree with you that great leaders are life-long learners and must be able to adapt. However, head knowledge can be overrated. 

      When I alluded to “leading with their head” as a negative,  I was referring to the dozens of executives I’ve worked with over the years who wield their Wharton or Harvard MBA like a mace. They have zero years of actual business experience and are forced to use their educational pedigree as a crutch.

      Boardrooms across corporate America are  being stuffed with newly-minted MBAs who are overly dependent on case studies and theoretical modeling rather than creativity – at least, that’s been my firsthand experience. 

      You have to smart to succeed, but an advanced degree doesn’t automatically make you smart was the point I was trying to make. Jobs proved that.

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  • Uma Maheswaran S

    One thing I learnt from Steve is the priniciple of following my heart and intuition.

    “Don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma  which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

    • TorConstantino

      Great addition to the conversation Uma!

      • Uma Maheswaran S

        Thanks Tor for your encouragement!

        Subject: [mhyatt] Re: Five Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs

  • Ted Weis

    Jobs was known to be rather harsh with his employees, yet the results were amazing. To what degree should Christian leaders follow Jobs’ lead in treating employees?

    • Michael Hyatt

      While I’m a big fan of Steve Jobs, this part of his behavior is unnecessary for success. You can still achieve success and treat your employees well.

  •  Avito Zaldivar 

    Tor, other commenters have said this as well, but thanks for this truly insightful post.  I read this post and had to pause for a moment and truly reflect on those lessons.  The impact that Steve had on my through his technology, and maybe through his vision as well, was his relentless drive for being excellent.  I look at the “things” he left us (iMac, iPod, iPad, iPhone, etc.) and see stuff that are a result of excellence.  Is excellence perfect? I don’t believe so.  But excellence keeps one constantly pursuing better, and that’s what Steve did.  This is what I seek to do in everything I do – do it with excellence.  Again, thanks for sharing these thoughts and for doing so in an insightful manner.

    • TorConstantino

      Avito, I agree that excellence is a much better goal than perfection for all the reasons you listed.  Thanks for the perspective!

  • Elise Hall

    Fantastic look at the leadership principles we can all take away from Steve Jobs’ life.  One of my favorite quotes from Jobs is in the quote in the “Missions” principle — that is the epitome of being a great entrepreneur. 

    • TorConstantino

      Elise, I think the “Mission Lesson” is critical because it helps us all take a longer perspective on what we’re doing. The tenure of most CEOs at publicly-traded companies is less than 28 months, forcing an artificially truncated viewpoint – Jobs showed how we can stretch our vision.

  • Mark Jordan Murray

    You must risk greatly. It’s something lost in a society where we are fear of failure is much greater than our ambition to be great.

    • TorConstantino

      Excellent point Mark – “…our reach must exceed our grasp…”

  • Daniel

    Great Post, thanks for sharing this! I love how you started out every point with a Quote by Steve. 
    I really resonated with your point on Succession. Empowering leaders are always on the look out for new talent and succeed by making others successful. I touched on this as well in an article I wrote about what leaders can learn from Steve:
    By the way: this also was Jesus’ strategy of creating a viral message and world wide movement 2000 years ago. In his 3 years of ministry on earth, he mostly focused on equipping 12 guys who can run the church after he’s gone. Seems like it worked out pretty well for him. Just a thought ;)

    • TorConstantino

      Daniel, great comment! Interesting point about Jesus’ “recruiting” tactics. He went for unlearned laborers – not the best and brightest scholars as his core succession strategy. Yet despite what his 12 disciples lacked within themselves, their results were incredible. It makes you wonder if we’ve got our current recruiting priorities askew…

      • Daniel Vogler

        True, he definitely knew how to create viral messages by converting listeners into tellers of the story.

  • davidrlee

    I recently finished reading Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, but I took away something different than you did, apparently. What I learned showed up in the interview that Isaacson did with Erin, Jobs’ oldest daughter. She reflected on how Jobs had to balance his roles as CEO and father and concluded, “I wish I had more of his attention, but I know the work he’s doing is very important and I think it’s really cool, so I’m fine.” If that was my daughter’s assessment of my impact in her life, I would consider myself a complete failure. That she today sees his work as “important” and “cool” will fade quickly with time. I want to give my kids the love that only a father can give; love that models the love of their heavenly father. My legacy won’t be cool gadgets and millions of dollars worth of stock, but my kids will know what it feels like to be loved deeply by their dad.

    • Josue Sierra

      Good observation David. I agree. We can learn a lot from Steve Jobs…but his his legacy as far as his role as a father is yet to be seen. From the book, he certainly didn’t seem to think it was that high on his priority list. It’s sad.

    • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

      David – I have to say I agree with you. 

  • James Pinnick

    I didn’t know a whole lot about the man until after he passed. One thing that strikes me are his last words “oh wow, oh wow, oh wow”. Is this something he said because he was invited into the gates of Heaven?

    I believe so…

    Author-The Last Seven Pages

  • Roy

    Appreciate these thoughts, and agree with them for the most part.  But with two major caveats.  Steve Jobs stepped on a lot of folks as he climbed the ladder to success.  And we aren’t all Steve Jobs; he was brilliant, which most of us are not, and he was in the right place at the right time.  Don’t get me wrong: he deserves lots of praise.  But he’s not really a relevant role model for most of us.

  • Josue Sierra

    I appreciated his ability to ignore perceived barriers…they call it his “reality distortion field” but the fact is we humans have the tendency to put on self-inflicted insecurity-related barriers to what we can do. Steve Jobs knew how to push people past that, and ignore their insecurities in order to challenge them to come up with seemingly “impossible” solutions. As a Christian, the Bible says, “I can do all things through Christ”…how much more could we be achieving in ministry work if we truly understood and believed that.

  • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

    Tor – I appreciate the post.  Steve Jobs was certainly a genius although I was not an avid follower of his, I did appreciate his philanthropy.   

    Professionally- I love my iPhone (and my iPad)  It was true struggle to leave my Blackberry behind –  and only when my four daughters physically took my Blackberry and made the exchange FOR me did I move to the technology that I have learned to love.  

  • Julie-Ann

    Steve Jobs was a one-of-a-kind leader. Building a culture like he was able to create is virtually unheard of these days. There are ways for other businesses to emulate what he’s been able to do. This video offers insights on how to get the job done:

  • Jessica

    what Jobs has engrained in me is that myself as well as many others will over-pay for hardware (and other consumer goods) because of extremely effective branding!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Not to mention, GREAT products. Apple consistently gets the highest customer services ratings of any computer company.

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  • Brad

    Nicely done.  The best perspective is hiring only those that “love” Apple.  Imagine being hired after we said – “I will take one for Apple – if you hire me – promise.”  I suspect that there were other indicators in addition to any overt declaration.  Makes a great deal of sense.  Thanks for these excellent notes and pointers.

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  • qi

    Steve Jobs is a Autocratic leader or democratic?