In reflecting on Steve Jobs’ many accomplishments, I return regularly to his role as a leader. When considered alongside other visionaries responsible for ground-breaking designs (think Frank Lloyd Wright and the Eames), Jobs also ran a multi-national public company. As his career progressed, he became the actual, and adopted, chief of more and more people: from geeks, to designers, to animators, to musicians, to telecom workers, to retailers, etc. Whether they worked for Apple or not, people associated with those fields voluntarily chose him as their leader — me included.
Jobs’ passion and drive was enough to attract followers, but with blockbuster product after product coming out, he had everyone listening. What makes a new Apple product great is that it’s unimaginable before it’s released, but once it is, we can’t think of a better solution. This happened again and again, always with Jobs on stage grinning enthusiastically as he revealed world-changing designs. You can relive these moments in the now legendary videos of the release of the Macintosh and the iMac and the iPod Nano. In his Facetime chat with Jonathan Ive during the iPhone 4 release, he said that he grew up with the Jetsons and that the day had come to make video calls. We all smiled with him. It was as if he had landed on the moon. But unlike space travel, he was going to take us there with him.
The emotional void from Jobs’ death makes me ask questions of those who remain on top — the elected politicians, heads of universities, corporations and non-profits. Do they skate — as Jobs and hockey player Wayne Gretzky once did — “to where the puck is going to be, and not to where it has been”? What visions do our leaders have? Where do their passions lie? Will they learn from Steve Jobs to not conduct polls, or cut corners, or make excuses, or settle for less? If they do, I will support them as a voter, as a customer or as an admirer.
Rest in peace, Steve, and thank you for your leadership and inspiration.