Why Your Picture of Steve Jobs is Ruining Your Leadership Effectiveness

We seem to admire this picture we’ve created of the famous Steve Jobs. And why wouldn’t we. Steve created arguably the most successful company on the planet. We admire his “take no prisoners” drive and his incredible focus. Unfortunately I think we’ve unknowingly let some of the folklore influence how we lead.


There is this famous story of Steve Jobs getting into an elevator with an intern and asking him what he’s working on, then promptly firing the poor guy before arriving at his destination floor. In fact, it seems like so many of the stories we hear are around Steve firing team members.

Take a look at this clip for example:

You might say that this is just another example of Steve firing someone out of thin air, but I think there is something more important to notice here. 

Some believe that Steve had an opinion about everything, that there wasn’t a single part of any product that he didn’t “control”. But think about that for a minute. How many hours a day do you think it would take for Steve to hands-on micromanage every aspect of Apple’s operation? He couldn’t. It’s mathematically impossible. 

Go back and watch the clip again. Did you notice what Steve was focused on? He wasn’t focused on which “pretty font” the team was choosing.

We seem to believe that Steve would have been focused on that. The "folklore Steve" would have walked into the room and said “Arial font, are you crazy? Everything must be done in Helvetica!” But he didn’t do that. 

Steve was focused on vision. 

Our job as a leader of leaders it to drive the team forward towards the common goal. It’s the team’s job to align with that goal, to align with that vision and implement it. 

It’s very tempting to walk onto your campus every Sunday and jump into the details, but what’s even more important is that, as a leader, you walk onto your campus every Sunday and measure it against your values.

When you see a problem, ask yourself, does this align with our values? 

Only then, approach your team leader and discuss the misalignment…not the problem. 

Here’s why…YOU’RE TOO RESPECTED. If you just share your opinion, chances are you won’t get much pushback. The team will just implement your idea…but you’ll only have fixed this instance of the issue, you won’t have fixed the underlying problem. 

Instead, have your team help you solve the underlying problem. Chances are it will apply to more than just the “issue” that brought it to the forefront.