Steven Paul Jobs was impassioned, a captivating speaker, and had an uncanny ability to see the future. But many who knew Apple's co-founder also described him as impatient, petulant, and difficult.

If I described your boss as having characteristics like those, would you go out of your way to work with him--even following him as he changed companies?

For example, when he originally left Apple in 1985, Jobs went on to found NeXT, a startup focused on producing high-powered computers for the higher education industry. (The company's software went on to be used as the foundation for what we now know as OS X, iOS, watchOS, and the App Store.)

This may have been Jobs at his worst: a 31 year old multimillionaire who was strongly convinced that he was right most--if not all--of the time. But here's the thing: a large part of the team that worked with Jobs at Apple followed him to NeXT, leaving secure jobs in pursuit of a new vision.

Which begs the question: Why in the world would they do that?

It comes down to a single reason:

Steve Jobs got the best out of people.

Don't believe me? Here's the evidence: This 20-minute video was filmed beginning in late 1985, just after "Chairman Jobs" founded NeXT. The video shows excerpts of two company retreats Jobs orchestrated, the first when the company was only three months old.

 

I've viewed this short video countless times, written about it, and used it to teach. It well illustrates some spectacular lessons in leadership.

If you want to get the most out of your team, make sure to:

1. Praise them.

Jobs may be remembered most for his penchant for criticism, but here's the other side. At the 12:22 mark, which takes place towards the end of the first retreat, Jobs says the following:

I find myself making lists of things we don't know, and then I remember that our company's 90 days old. And I look back to all the things we do know. And it's really phenomenal how far we've come in 90 days.

We all crave to hear that we've done well, even when things aren't going great. Regardless of the problems and challenges faced by your team, make sure you're also looking for the positive--and commending your people for what they're doing right.

2. Listen to them.

At the 7:26 mark, Jobs works on establishing priorities for the next several months. He gives the team the opportunity to speak their mind, and uses their opinions to inform, adjust, and highlight those priorities.

But you'll notice Jobs isn't passive in this process--he acknowledges when he understands certain points and uses questions and comments to clarify and refine others.

Remember: Listening is more than hearing what your people have to say. It's the effort to understand, and get value from their perspectives.

3. Challenge them.

Throughout the video, Jobs probes and challenges. He doesn't quickly "agree to disagree." Rather, he defends his position, and wants his team to do the same.

The point is not to argue for the sake of arguing. But you also shouldn't accept what your team has to tell you at face value--no matter how smart they are.

4. Be accountable with them.

The second half of the video takes place three months after the first, when the team returns for a second retreat. Despite progress, many goals haven't been reached--made evident with the first slide to Jobs's presentation: "The Honeymoon Is Over."

But noteworthy is Jobs's assessment of the situation, found at the 17:27 mark (Bold type mine):

One of the things I don't see is ... I don't see it in myself, I don't see it in enough of the rest of us is, I don't see that 'startup hustle.' In other words, if we zoom out at the big picture, it would be a shame to have lost the war because we won a few battles. And I sort of feel like I and some of the rest of us are concentrating too much on the smaller battles ... and we're not keeping the war in perspective. And the war is called survival.

Jobs doesn't only see single mistakes--he clearly identifies a problem with the mindset. But most importantly, he recognizes his responsibility as the leader, and places blame first exactly where it should be--on himself.

True leadership isn't about position, it's action: getting down in the trenches with your team, accepting responsibility, and setting the right example.

5. Lead them.

At the 6:53 mark, Jobs gives a mini-master class on proper leadership:

There needs to be someone who is the keeper and reiterator of the vision.... A lot of times, when you have to walk a thousand miles and you take the first step, it looks like a long way, and it really helps if there's someone there saying, "Well we're one step closer.... The goal definitely exists; it's not just a mirage out there."

This is what a leader does: He or she guides, keeps everyone moving forward--and gets them to the destination.

Andy Cunningham, who helped lead the PR and marketing efforts that launched the Macintosh, is one of the employees seen in the video. Not only did she follow Jobs from Apple to NeXT, she continued to work with him closely at Pixar.

Here's what she had to say about Jobs in an essay she penned for Mashable:

I spent five years working closely with Steve and it was a most phenomenal experience that touched me emotionally every day with amazement, anger, and satisfaction all at once. It took me way beyond where I ever thought I would go. I wouldn't change it for the world.

That's why people followed Jobs around: Simply put, he made them better.

So, I ask: What are you doing for your people today?

Published on: Oct 31, 2016
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