In the headline to this column, I don't mean the real Steve Jobs.
I'm talking about the Ashton Kutcher Steve Jobs. The one who violated employees and could predict the future. The superstar of Apple, the guy who always put his helpless team on his back. The one we hear about in the media all the time.
More and more entrepreneurs are trying to tailor their leadership style to the movie version of Steve Jobs, and it's easy to see why. He's portrayed as a superhuman who was so smart he didn't have to follow any of the rules. Apart from being a rebel, he's also micromanaged and belittled his workers, which of course is why his company loved him. When we see this, it's easy to think that by mimicking the same leadership style, we too can be great leaders.
Jobs was an amazing individual, but few of us could get away with what he did and still lead great companies. Here's what will happen if you try to mimic your leadership style to the Steve Jobs you see in the movies and media.
1. You'll think you're a visionary
We've all met the entrepreneurs who think their idea is golden. Unfortunately, there's a high chance they are wrong. Many people assume Steve Jobs just thought of amazing ideas and then produced great products. This causes startup leaders to think that the customer discovery process is worthless.
An example is when an entrepreneur says they want to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars so they can build an amazing idea they have. Then when you ask them how many sales or customer interviews they've done, you start to get every excuse in the book for why the answer is zero.
Instead of making this amateur move, learn to love data. Using customer interviews and tracking trends in responses is the best way to tell you what you should build. Put a startup "visionary" up against a guy who listens to his customers, and I'm taking the latter every time.
2. You'll micromanage your designer
For some reason, this always happens when people critique the design of their product. When leaders see how Jobs obsessed over Apple's design, they start critiquing their designer. All a sudden, they go from startup CEO to a UI/UX master. This is a surefire way for your design team to hate you. Unless you have design experience, don't force your team to make your product look the exact way you picture it. You most likely will be wrong and you'll look foolish.
For Alumnify, I give our designer as much freedom as possible for how the product should look. Do I ever make suggestions? Sure, but I don't need to have the final say. Also, giving your design team freedom to have fun and experiment is the best way for them to produce great work. Your job as the leader is to show your design team the end goal. After that, let them figure out how to best get to the destination.
3. You'll destroy your team internally
It reminds me of the reason why we only like to see sharks when they're about to attack. We think of sharks as scary and dangerous animals. As such, we love to see them with their mouths open ready to bite. Similarly, we love hearing stories of Jobs yelling at employees, because it goes along with how he is portrayed in movies.
When leaders try to get their way, they use the Steve Jobs yelling tactic to force their team to do what they say. Over time, this will completely ruin your business. It's proven that when employees feel threatened, their productivity goes down; when they feel safe, they produce better results. One of your jobs as the leader of the company is to protect your company internally. This allows your team to defend your organization from outside threats. When you mistreat your own team, it's impossible for them to defend against the outside. How can they protect your team when they don't feel safe themselves?
Instead, treat your team like a family, where you are the parent. Will arguments arise? Of course, and that's essential for improving your business. But remember, the goal is to have people on your team be able to argue without feeling threatened. Steve Jobs was a big part of Apple's success, but he wouldn't have gotten anywhere if it wasn't for his team, and neither will you.