Steve Jobs and the Great Man Theory of Leadership
Bill Taylor’s recent post on Steve Jobs and leadership, “Decoding Steve Jobs: Trust the Art, Not the Artist,” is a must read for emerging leaders or those who aspire to lead. Taylor discusses how Jobs clings to the Great Man Theory of leadership which works well for him as an unusual skilled leader creatively, but fails miserably for others who try to implement it.
From the blog:
“So In terms of the impact his products have had on the world, Steve Jobs represents the face of business at its best. And yet, in terms of his approach to leadership, Jobs represents the face of business — well, if not at its worst, then certainly not as something worth emulating. It’s not so much the secrecy about his liver transplant or the controversies over backdated stock options. Those are matters of corporate governance and investor relations, which, while important, aren’t all that urgent. To me, the issue is more Jobs’s approach to leadership itself — which, despite the compelling and cutting-edge quality of his products, is strangely unappetizing and often downright retro.”
The author further generalizes:
“. . . The best leaders I know don’t want the job of thinking for everybody else. They understand that if they can tap the hidden genius inside the organization, and the collective genius outside the organization, they will create ideas that will be much more powerful than what even the smartest individual leader could ever come up with on his or her own . . . “
I couldn’t agree more. While there are a few very successful leaders who can pull off the smartest guy in the room thing [count ‘em on one hand kinda numbers], most great leaders don’t and can’t lead this way. Replicating Jobs’ tirades, my-rules-are-the-only-rules attitude and overall hubris would destroy most leaders and would doom almost any person trying to establish a leadership role to a crash-and-burn type failure.
Don’t get me wrong. None of this is meant to take anything away from Jobs as a leader himself – he’s proven to be a successful leader on many levels. It’s merely to point out that trying to copy his leadership techniques will likely end in failure. Your odds are much better when you use the capabilities of those around you and share the credit wisely. Humility is an incredible leadership tool and is very easy to use if you keep your ego from getting in the way.
Read the article. Its author does a much better job telling this story.