The Legacy of Steve Jobs
For Steve Jobs, it was about creating magical products - things that were as much a part of his fancy as they were part of the real world.
I write this with a heavy heart because this is the second iconic CEO I've followed closely that both touched my life and changed it. The first was Walt Disney and in many ways the two men were very similar. As we watch the outpouring of pain, memories and sympathy for Steve's family and co-workers, I think the positive lessons that both men taught through their lives should be reinforced. The definitive Steve Jobs ad wasn't the "1984" ad that is so famous; it is the ad he voiced called "Here's to the Crazy Ones."
Have a Dream
Or, as we call it in business, a vision. This is the key to every successful leader: They have a vision, a goal for their company and the best are often personal. Disney wanted to create the most wonderful place for children on earth. He created Disneyland, a place where they could experience wonder and magic, a place that made Walt's imagination real.
Steve Jobs was the only CEO of a major company to assure products met his high standards personally and he refused to make junk. Virtually all CEOs of big companies tend to leave quality to others, but Jobs didn't. Walt Disney didn't either. He instilled in his employees a sense of excellence and just as Jobs put himself in the quality path for Apple's products, Walt could be found walking the park at different times and personally ensuring that everything met his personal approval.
Assure the Message
For Disney, he created the concept of being on stage and off-stage. When you were in costume you were in character and your personal life was set aside. This had some scary and humorous moments when, one year, a group of Japanese children decided to practice martial arts against the Seven Dwarfs who never broke character even though they were being repeatedly drop-kicked to the ground (thank heavens for the massive padding).
For Jobs, only people who were allowed to talk about Apple talked about Apple and the firm spoke consistently with one voice. The memorable moment was that one iconic picture where Steve wanted the iPod to be the focus, not him, and he refused to remove the product from in front of his face. It remains one of the most iconic Steve Jobs shots.
You often see CEOs, who go into politics, focus on having all of the trappings and the toys, and those that like the fame. Both Jobs and Disney focused on the job; they were as much a part of their companies as their companies were part of them. Both drove their people incredibly hard but no harder than they drove themselves. Anyone who worked with either man was indelibly changed by him. And while many likely wouldn't want to work for them again - they were often harsh task masters - few would have given up the opportunity of doing it. In the end, it was their laser-like focus that made their dreams our dreams.
Both men had their iconic failures as well, often because they didn't live long enough. For Disney, it was Disney World and Epcot - the latter was to be Walt's vision of the perfect city, the city of tomorrow, and the former was to be Disneyland done to perfection. Epcot never became the city of tomorrow and Walt's vision was betrayed by those he trusted and Disney World never met his vision either. He passed too soon.
For Steve, he rarely took a personal interest in anyone else, but in his last few years he tried to mentor other leaders. He spent a lot of time with Google and to his disappointment, they betrayed him and he had to fire Google's CEO from his board. He tried to extend his vision to another company and instead of learning his ideals, they stole his products.
In short, some of their biggest failures were not their own, but they were a result of people they trusted failing them.
There is a line from that "Don Juan" movie, which, to paraphrase, goes something like "everyone has a little bit of Don Juan in them, and since I am Don Juan, there must be more of him in me." I think everyone has a little bit of Disney and Steve Jobs in them and whatever that essence is, both men had more of it and it made them who they were. They were people who will always be remembered for making their dreams real and giving us the honor sharing them. They were the crazy ones, and we're better for knowing them.