If you’re in love with your iPhone or your iPad, or a variety of other Apple products, you can thank Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, Inc.
I read an interesting article from Fast Company magazine recently that highlighted a little more of his leadership style- that of micromanager in chief. Allow me to share the quote and then I’ll share a few thoughts on the other side:
Mike Evangelist (yep, that’s his name) still remembers one of his first meetings with Jobs. It took place in the Apple boardroom in early 2000, just a few months after Apple purchased the American division of Astarte, a German software company where Evangelist was an operations manager. Phil Schiller, Apple’s longtime head of marketing, put Evangelist on a team charged with coming up with ideas for a DVD-burning program that Apple planned to release on high-end Macs — an app that would later become iDVD.
“We had about three weeks to prepare,” Evangelist says. He and another employee went to work creating beautiful mock-ups depicting the perfect interface for the new program. On the appointed day, Evangelist and the rest of the team gathered in the boardroom. They’d brought page after page of prototype screen shots showing the new program’s various windows and menu options, along with paragraphs of documentation describing how the app would work.
“Then Steve comes in,” Evangelist recalls. “He doesn’t look at any of our work. He picks up a marker and goes over to the whiteboard. He draws a rectangle. ‘Here’s the new application,’ he says. ‘It’s got one window. You drag your video into the window. Then you click the button that says BURN. That’s it. That’s what we’re going to make.’ “
“We were dumbfounded,” Evangelist says. This wasn’t how product decisions were made at his old company. Indeed, this isn’t how products are planned anywhere else in the industry.
The tech business believes in inclusive, bottom-up, wisdom-of-crowds innovation. The more latitude extended, the greater the next great thing will be. Nowhere is this ethos more celebrated than at Google, where employees are free to spend some of their working hours building anything that strikes their fancy. A few of these so-called 20%-time projects have become hits for Google, including Gmail and Google News.
Apple’s engineers spend 100% of their time making products planned by a small club of senior managers — and sometimes entirely by Jobs himself. The CEO appoints himself the de facto product manager for every important release; Jobs usually meets with the teams working on these new gadgets and apps once a week, and he puts their creations through the paces.
Like I said above, and is evidenced by the article, Steve Jobs is a notorious micromanager. Being a micro-manager has always gotten a bad name. No leadership book ever tells you to be that involved in the details. But here’s the truth. Because of his leadership style, and demanding the exact vision that he wants to see, Apple recently overtook Microsoft as the largest tech company in the world.
So here’s what I’m wondering. A lot of leadership books talk about developing core values and developing a mission and vision statement that seemingly bubbles up as the result of lots of meetings and processing. This kind of leadership style places a lot of emphasis on the group.
But in a lot of companies and churches that are really successful, there seem to be leaders who exert a lot of control and authority.
So what do you think? Who’s right? Do you think a Steve Jobs kind of leadership style is consistent with a biblical view of leadership?
[image by acaben]