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Michael Maccoby
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Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby is an anthropologist and psychoanalyst globally recognized as an expert on leadership. He is the author of The Leaders We Need, And What Makes Us Follow.

A forceful passion

The first time Steve Jobs was CEO of Apple, his ham-handed management style got him fired and his unwillingness to license his software dampened the company's growth. But Jobs learned to partner. With Tim Cook as COO and Jonathan Ives as chief designer, Jobs created a team that allowed him to focus on vision and strategy. With the iPhone he opened up to partnering with AT&T and thousands of apps designers.

Jobs is a text-book example of a brilliant productive narcissist, a change-the-world personality who evolved into a great leader by developing his strategic intelligence: foresight, partnering, visioning and motivating. He showed foresight 20 years ago when he not only predicted the convergence of information and telecommunication technologies but began to integrate them.

His innovative visioning is fed by his own aesthetic sensitivity. He won't produce anything he doesn't think beautiful. He develops his vision by examining the products of competitors and asking himself what he likes about them and what he wants them to have. He did that with MP3 players, then cell phones and smart phones. Once he knew what he wanted, he demanded that his technical staff produce products that were beautiful, easy to use, and full of new features . The results were the iPod, then the iPhone, which combines elements of a computer and iPod with features missing in the products of competitors.

Jobs motivates his staff with his forceful passion and by inviting them to be part of his "insanely great" enterprise. His introduction of new products are masterful dramas wrapped in secrecy. He creates a feeling in his listeners that he is revealing something wonderful, something that will change their lives. We'll see how the iPad, which he introduced as a "truly magical and revolutionary product", works out, but up to now his products have proved a cut above those of his competitors.

Like his products, the Apple Store are examples of Job's innovative visioning. Apple computers used to be sold in privately owned shops of varying size and quality. Many were not easy to find and not user friendly. Jobs envisioned inviting, high-fashion stores with helpful attendants, where customers could see, touch, and try out products on tables and learn how they work. Some have small auditoriums where staff show on-screen demonstrations and areas where children can sit on big foam balls and play games on Macs while their parents are considering the products. Jobs hired top retail store designers and, like the development of his products with techies, he supervised every design element.

Jobs has a passion to change the world according to his aesthetic and social vision and he has learned to partner with those who sign up for it. He sees the iPad as a replacement for heavy, expensive text books that are soon to be out of date. He sees it used by health care workers for access to full-color, high-detail lab pictures and digitized medical records. He believes people will become more creative if they use the tools he has invented. In this, he is in the tradition of great American entrepreneurs of doing well by doing good, a tradition that has made America prosper.

Note: The post was co-authored with Richard Margolies.

By Michael Maccoby

 |  January 29, 2010; 8:19 AM ET
Category:  Corporate leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Steve Jobs embodies the quality of genius that is often missing in corporate America. Smart enough to design products that appeal to the many; wise enough to recognize his own shortcomings as a businessman, then partnering with those who could allow him to do what he does best.

My only regret, is not buying Apple when it was $9 a share.

A hundred years Steve.

Posted by: hadenuff1 | January 30, 2010 11:53 AM
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As someone who was an Apple employee when Jobs was CEO and when Scully took over I can say the Jobs years were the most exciting and productive.

Thinking and evangelizing and innovating were the top priority.

Thank God we have people like Jobs who continue to think and dream and execute their dreams.

Just think of the great things that could be accomplished if more companies encouraged people like Jobs.

Posted by: stephenrhymer | January 30, 2010 9:15 AM
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