So far we have considered some 18 leadership lessons from Steve Jobs from Parts ONE, TWO and THREE of this series and how they may be relevant for legal leaders – all based on the Walter Isaacson article it the HBR. There are some things however I wouldn’t recommned for legal leaders.

He was feisty, scary, tough on people, very often unreasonable and downright rude - people at Apple didn't want to get in the lift with him! But he did have another side. . . . . ..

So what are the personal style and leadership characteristics of Jobs one would not recommend for legal leaders?

  1. being more about me than about you
  2. not caring about others’ feelings
  3. aggression and anger openly used in discussions with others
  4. out and out rejection of ideas – ‘that is crap
  5. strong language
  6. expecting/demanding the impossible
  7. being devious in demanding things from others
  8. being more selfish than selfless
  9. not taking a genuine interest in the personal and professional well-being of others
  10. simply expecting others to be able to handle his style and approach

and so on, you get the drift, but he, unlike most of us, could pull this off because of who he was and what he had achieved. He could afford to hire highly paid, highly capable, tough people who could handle it all and it worked, brilliantly. In my experience many senior leaders like managing partners don’t exhibit these tendencies, and I don’t think it would go down too well or be swallowed in a legal environment.However, pause and look around the office and there are usually some leaders who do – they need to be addressed on this as it can be a deadener to your employment brand if it is not.

And now, one last thing. . . . many of you will know Steve Jobs often ended off his renowned presentations – many of them quite long – with a pause, raised his finger, turned to the audience and said ‘ah, just one more thing . . . ‘ and then launched into discussion about a key development. This was the item that usually stuck in everyone’s mind.

Well, I thought of a couple of  ‘just one more things’ that weren’t mentioned by Isaacson in his HBR article:

19  His passion about presentations. Too often we see leaders presenting without having given much thought to the tone, content, length and many others keys to effective presentation – these are golden opportunities lost. Jobs has a lesson for every leader – treat every presentation opportunity as the most important thing on your agenda – and the key to making the most of it is not your natural oratory skills, but the hard work and thought you put in beforehand.

Sure, he was dead against PowerPoint (maybe because of the way he felt about Microsoft), but he did use visuals and accessories – but he has become well known for the way he presented – books have been written about it –  I own one and it makes some good points – also check out YouTube for many memorable examples. Here are some of the things he emphasised (some from ‘The presentation secrets of Steve Jobs’ by Carmine Gallo):

  1. Preparation is key
    • create the story
    • be ready to answer the one question that matters most to the audience
    • don’t use PowerPoint
  2. Deliver the goods:
    • pause
    • change the pace
    • introduce an antagonist and reveal a conquering hero
    • create anticipation
    • obey the 10 minute rule – give the audience some form of break or ‘intermission’  (e.g. show a video) after 10 minutes – not a second later
  3. Practice, practice, practice
    • make it look easy
    • get to a point where you don’t need a script
    • wear the right garb
    • have fun
    • and always remember the ‘one last thing’, revealing the ‘holy shit’ moment

20   Injecting psychological content into a physical product:

He had an amazing ability – intuition really – about creating emotion and passion around his physical products – people became and still do, emotionally attached to them, almost without exception, possibly due to his passion around wanting computers to be ‘more human’. I remember one of his comments when the iMac was launched which summed this up – ‘they look so good you kinda wanna lick em’. Also in relation to the confluence of technology and the arts – ‘it makes our hearts sing’.

'They look so good you kinda wanna lick 'em' . . . . 'looks like its from a different planet, and a good planet'

21  Sharing

In some respects I think he started the whole concept of sharing which is so much a foundation stone of the social media phenomenon today. He talked of ‘inter-personal’ computing, not personal computing. Sharing music. Sharing photos. Sharing movies.  His products all made it easy.

22  Copying ideas

He didn’t think he had all the ideas. He was quite open about this. He got the idea for the mouse from Xerox, but he turned it into a one-button mouse costing $15 instead of $300 which would also work on his jeans. He didn’t invent the MP3 music player. He reinvented it. He connected dots, put ideas into reality.

23  The X factor

While there has not been much not written about leadership I haven’t personally seen anything on what I call the leadership X-factor – that something that makes some people, despite all their foibles and faults, some glaring, good business leaders and of people. He had the X factor. He instinctively knew how to get through to people – his ‘think different’ advert was conjured up as a call to action for Apple employees. It worked brilliantly.

24  Style and substance (the product) are not different things

To Steve Jobs style and aesthetics on the one hand and the physical product on the other were not separate. Style was the substance. The better things looked the more people wanted them. He understood this.  He didn’t just open a chain of Apple shops – he opened a chain of ‘experiences’. I think legal leaders should seriously take this into account – with websites, documents, reception areas, presentation of staff, the way telephones are answered and many other things.

25  He had a special way with vision

He didn’t simply evolve a clear vision and stick with it. The vision, or more correctly, the visions, were continually evolving to meet new challenges. He didn’t focus on products as he thought they would be good sellers. His vision was to become ‘more consumer‘ so he wanted Apple to make stuff that made sense for people, made them more creative, let them have more fun – this led to the iPod and the iPhone. Another of his visions was that ‘content would be king‘. In realising this, he created the future of entertainment. Another vision was that Apps were key- he effectively demonstrated how bits of the Internet could be packaged.

26  And finally, truly one last thing . . . . the simple but important things – he set an example with an austere, spartan existence – always appeared simply in jeans and a black sweater – he had a close family and sparse furnishings in his homes, with barely anywhere to sit down – in this day of public ridicule of CEOs living the high life, it is a sobering example. He followed Zen thinking and felt there was beauty in simplicity. He was not into money or possessions. He felt Apple would do more if it did less – he killed off many products.

Each of us will remember him for different things – the fantastic thing for me is there is so much about his leadership traits that one can bear in mind, adapt and use in a practical way. I know legal leaders could, too. What I particularly liked about him was that the inner-hippy in him remained strong and true – he never left the counter-culture – he stayed hungry and stayed foolish.

all the best, Sean Larkan, Partner, Edge International