5 Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs

Ideas, Innovation, Leadership, Organization

Ask any person walking with a cell phone who Steve Jobs is and they’ll tell you.  They wait in line for hours to buy the next IPhone.  They hear smartphone and IPhone is the image that comes to mind.  Steve Jobs left the world with a product that is now a part of every day life.  

Most people are aware of his innovative approach to technology, business and how he made people better.  I find Steve Jobs to be one of those most influential, inspiring and innovative people in this generation.  I have listened to Steve Job’s Crazy Ones speech at least 500 times.  It gives me purpose.  It inspires me.  It opens possibilities that we are all better than we allow ourselves to be.  

As a leadership enthusiast, I want to point out some of my favorite quotes from Jobs that have inspired me to be a better leader.  We need to understand that Steve wasn’t just a brilliant innovator, but he was also a leader.  

“What leadership is is having a vision and being able to articulate that so that the people around you can understand it.” – Steve Jobs

If anyone is going to make that first step into leading, they MUST have vision.  Leaders must know where they’re taking their team.  Leading people implies we are going somewhere.  Leading implies we have a goal/objective to accomplish.  Leaders must create a vision to accomplish that goal.  Call it a plan, a path, an idea, but communicate it in such a way that your team can see what you see.  Communicate that vision clearly, concise and easy enough for their followers/team to understand. It’s one thing to know, it’s another to understand.  When we understand things, we get the full spectrum of what it is we’re about to do.  Thus, a leader must paint a vision so that their team can see it too.  

“My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better.” – Steve Jobs

Leaders invest in people.  That’s what they do naturally.  They make people better.  Steve Jobs nails it.  A leader’s job isn’t to be easy on people, it’s to make them better.  If we’re going to invest in people, let’s make it count for them.  A leader must be honest with their team.  If a team member needs a wake up call, hold them accountable to the values and standards that are set in place.  It’s a leader’s job to coach, mentor and guide their team members to not only be better, but do better and know better.  Don’t forget that a leader focuses on people.  They are in a way, our soul purpose for being a leader.  We don’t just want to make them better, but also want to make them leaders.  

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” – Steve Jobs

Leaders want to know that what they’re doing is working.  They want to know that their leadership is effective.  They want to know that their vision is being carried out and that progress is being made.  There is only one way to check how you and your team is doing and that’s by stopping to assess where the team is and how they have been performing.  You can’t look forward to see that, you must look behind you to see how far the team has gone.  Looking back provides an opportunity to grow from your experience, the failure, the perseverance, the challenges you’ve faced and so on. It’s important that we look back to connect the dots, but don’t forget that more dots need to be made.  Don’t focus too much on the past, but look to the future.  Leading is about where we’re going, but we must learn and progress from where we’ve been.  

“Be a yardstick of quality.  Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” – Steve Jobs

Think from the follower’s perspective.  Followers want amazing leaders leading them. Leaders must be that quality that followers are looking for.  I’ll say this in the nicest way, but followers don’t need a half-ass leader.  They need someone who is of the utmost quality.  The quality of the leaders depends on the follower’s development, progress and effectiveness.  Leaders will always have a high standards of excellence for their team and their work environment.  A leader cares about how things are done.  They expect high quality results.  They expect high quality performance.  As a follower, be selective on who you follow.  Who you follow is not only important for the objectives and goals, but also important for the followers.  A leader will raise the bar for the benefit of their followers. They see your potential and will ensure that you are growing to meet it. 

“Innovation distinguishes between and leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs 

This may be one of those most recognized quotes from Steve Jobs.  Some people have yet to understand the correlation between innovation and leadership, but it’s quite simple.  Innovation isn’t just an action, but being innovative is seeing outside the box.  Like innovators, leaders also see outside the box. Leadership and innovation are actions of a decision to not accept the normality of how people and products are grown. Leaders see around corners in ways that others don’t see.  They are strategic, they are creative, they are risk takers and they certainly don’t fear failure. It’s very important for leaders to see things in ways other people don’t.  A leader isn’t a leader because they have all the answers; a leader is a leader because if they don’t know an answer, they find or create their own solution to any challenge or issue. 

7 Ways to Foster an Open Door Policy

Leadership, Organization, Tips, Tricks

Communication is one if not the most important part of being in a team and or being a leader/supervisor.  You’ve probably heard dozens of times from your new boss or your supervisor that they have an open door policy.  An open door literally and metaphorically.  What that means is that their door is open for you to openly communicate about ideas, problems, information, etc.  It’s a simple idea and a very important avenue for bringing up issues as well as solutions among other things.  Sometimes it may just be to make small talk.  That three minute discussion on the weather is more important than you may realize.  How often is the phrase I have an open door policy really used to its greatest potential?  I am a firm believer in solving issues at the lowest level possible, but there may be certain cases where the leader/supervisor must be in the know on what’s going on.  In the specific cases of needing to speak to your leader/supervisor anyone should and must feel safe approaching their leadership to discuss matters.  In reality, issues or no issues, everyone should feel comfortable approaching their leadership.  Here are a few ways you, as a leader, can remove the hinges from the door and encourage, build and provide a place for open communication. 

Small talk – If the door was never opened you will need to create the culture in which your team knows they can come speak with you.  In order to build an environment for open communication you must initiate in some way the idea that talking is good for the team.  Making small talk builds the comfort level so that everyone is comfortable talking.  As a leader, engaging first is important.  Topics can be anything.  Sports, whether, news, movies, etc.  This shows your team that talking with leadership can be quite normal.  Often, team members feel as if talking with their leaders is foreign and unnatural.  Which is usually a sign of a disconnection between leaders and their teams.  If you’re building an open door relationship everyone must feel welcome and it must become a normal feeling.  Build that trust and comfort level with small talk.

Put the nerf gun away – Plain and simple.  Don’t shoot the messenger.  If people are fearful of your reaction to them bringing you information they’ll never want to speak to you when critical issues come up.  Allow them to say what they need to say without putting blame on the person bringing you the newspaper.  The purpose of an open door is to foster and encourage your team members to come to you.  Put the nerf gun away, you won’t need it. 

You have two ears and one mouth – I heard this in a church sermon once.  You have two ears and one mouth. You should listen twice as much as you speak.  If someone is approaching you with any dilemma, you should first listen.  Listen intently and with your utmost attention.  Perhaps the occasion doesn’t require a lengthy response.  It may just require your blessing with a simple, yes or no.  Whatever the case, listen first without distraction.  Turn to the person speaking whether you’re standing up or sitting down so that they know they have your attention.  Put down the electronic devices, perhaps even turn off your computer screen to avoid looking at it.  In any instance, listen. 

Everyone’s time is valuable – It is difficult to have an open door open every minute of every day.  You certainly want open communication, but at the same time you don’t need to be interrupted a hundred times a day.  In this case, leave the door open anyway.  Let’s face it, as a supervisor and leader of a team, your time matters just as theirs does.  You will be busy and there may be times when you may not have a moment to stop what you’re doing.  In this case, if you are busy and you can’t provide your undivided attention set up a time that allows enough time for discussion.  Don’t just tell the person no, or you can’t talk, but explain to them why you can’t talk that moment and that it’s not because you don’t want to.  Setting specific open hours dedicated to listening to your team may be something you have to do.  It’s okay to do that.  It will give your team members time to form their thoughts so they can bring it to you in an organized manner.

Empower your team – It’s probable that not ever problem needs immediate elevation to the leader or supervisor.  Ensure that your team knows that solving the issues at the lowest level is important.  Empower your team members to make decisions that are within their area of responsibility.  An effective team works together.  Encourage innovation and information sharing including ideas.  The solution may rest within another team member and may not need to be elevated.  Fostering open communication between team members is just as important as the communication with leaders. 

When your door is open you can walk out too –  Along the line of the team using each other’s skills in the group to resolve issues, you should do the same.  Your team matters.  Sometimes you may have an issue that you just can’t solve by yourself.  Instead of going to your leadership, if any, go to your team.  Your team can help you.  That’s what they’re there for.  Asking for their help ultimately removes the hinges from the door.  Imagine how you feel when someone walks into your office and needs your help.  You feel good.  You feel valuable.  Your team needs to feel that as well.  When you open the door, the door is open from both sides. Feel free to walk into their office. 

Know your people – There may be days when no one needs to talk, but as a leader, it’s your responsibility to know if your team members need to talk.  Knowing your people will help you see and know if something is up with any of them.  If it’s personal most people won’t come forward right away, but an open door policy includes personal issues.  You may not be an expert in the problem, but allowing them to vent may be the thing they need.  Get to know your team members.  Use feedback sessions to talk a bit about them.  Use small talk to learn facts about them.  The better you know them the better you can lead them. 

At the end of the day if your team isn’t coming to you for any reason you need to reassess why.  Great leaders are great communicators which means communication should be a fluid action.  Ensure that above all, as a leader, you have an open door that fosters an environment for creativity, idea flow, information sharing, trust, and growth.