Is the celebrity CEO back? You might think so given the buzz in business schools these days over the leadership lessons to be learned from the late Steve Jobs. Walter Isaacson’s best selling biography of the Apple founder gave us a uniquely anthropological view of Jobs, who was both bully and genius. That has a lot of folks in management circles talking about what today’s business leaders should take away from Jobs’ own leadership style.
As Isaacson told me this week, it’s not what you think. “Business schools often ask me what Steve Jobs teaches us about leadership,” he says. “It’s not that he parked in the handicapped spot, or that he was nasty to people. It’s that he took total responsibility for his products from end to end, that he put products above return on investment, and that he wasn’t a slave to focus groups.”
It’s a great point. Over the last several decades, America business, especially outside Silicon Valley, has been dominated by Whiz-Kid style financial engineering rather than real product based innovation. But as experts like Harvard Business School dean Nitin Nohria have told me, “efficiency gains in corporate America are largely tapped out.” The real challenge of the next decade will be which countries can churn out entrepreneurs who can harness technology to drive down unemployment.
On that score, Apple – and Jobs himself – provides three key lessons. To read what they are, and hear more about what Walter Isaacson has to say about Jobs legacy, subscribers can check out my Curious Capitalist column in this week’s Time magazine.