9 Timeless Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs

Being a leader is a challenge as there is no one hard-and-fast set of rules which we can follow and be always sure we will achieve what we plan for. We can be inspired by great leaders, but they usually present very diverse leadership styles. But in fact, by analyzing the leadership styles of successful leaders, we can learn from them a lot. 

One of the greatest leaders of all time is Steve Jobs. Some people love his leadership style, some hate it, but it is difficult to stay indifferent to such a prominent figure as the founder of Apple. His life was full of ups and downs which show that even the greatest leaders need to learn all the time and adjust their actions to specific circumstances.  

leadership  lessons from steve jobs

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the top leadership lessons from Steve Jobs.

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1. Don’t Let Past Mistakes Stop You from Doing Great Things.

“Let’s go invent tomorrow rather than worrying about what happened yesterday.” – Steve Jobs

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” – Steve Jobs

Everybody makes mistakes, even Steve Jobs did, but they shouldn’t stop us from taking action to create the future we want. Mistakes are good. They give us feedback if we are going in the right direction. Using this information will help us adjust our behavior and make smarter decisions. 

However, too much delving into past mistakes can make us fearful and timid. This is not the mindset that will help us achieve our goals. As leaders, we should analyze our mistakes, make the right conclusions, and move on concentrating our whole energy on the future, not the past. 

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2. Don’t Celebrate Your Successes For Too Long

“I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.” – Steve Jobs

Winning out is awesome. It makes you hover above the ground, but according to Steve Jobs, you shouldn’t swim in your success for too long. The feeling of victory can make you think you are invincible and brilliant and result in unnecessary mistakes. 

Therefore, the key lesson is that whenever you feel unbreakable, you need to start to be extra cautious and remember that success can take the edge off your logical thinking and level-headedness.

To regain the balance, instead of dwelling on your triumph, start planning the next move. When the plan is ready, start taking action to use gained experience in the next undertaking. One way to facilitate this process and keep the momentum is to map out the next venture immediately after the last success. 

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3. Simplify and Stay Focused 

“That’s been one of my mantras—focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” – Steve Jobs

How many projects do you have on your plate? I guess too many. In fact, having too much on your plate makes you lose track of what is significant and what is not. On top of that working on too many projects scatters your energy and results in unfinished ventures. Only by being laser-focused, you can accomplish your goals, so simplicity should be your ultimate goal. 

Once Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he decided to simplify the whole Apple business model. He made a hard call to not only cut down the desktop models from fifteen to one, all laptop models to one but also cut out completely all peripherals and printers. Additionally, to shorten the way to consumers, Jobs cut out all distributors and set up Apple stores. 

By simplifying some processes and terminating unpromising projects, Apple’s team regained the focus to concentrate only on the ones of utmost importance. As a result, the whole company went on the right track and gained longed-for traction. With hindsight, it seems obvious, but that tough decision showed what a genius leader Steve Jobs was. 

When our energy is focused, it gets enormous power. Less is more.

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4. Believe You Can Change the World

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs

The power of the human mind is extraordinary. However, so few people realize how powerful their mind is. Steve Jobs was one of them. He deeply believed in the success of everything he was doing, even when all the odds were against him. Certainly, his faith was unwavering.

Success is often the product of our mindset. What we believe in is represented in our actions and eventually in our results. In fact, if we think something is true, it often becomes true for us. The world is full of opportunities, and nothing is virtually impossible, but many people tend to set their limits on how far they can go. Thus, it is clear that by cultivating limiting beliefs, we don’t take chances that happen on our way and doom ourselves to failure without even trying.

If Steve Jobs had believed that college dropouts are doomed to failure, he would have never set up Apple. Instead of following his passion, he would have given up at the beginning coming across the smallest obstacle. In other words, he believed in the success of everything he was doing, even when the odds were against him.  

Remember, your convictions determine how successful you will become. If you dislike your restrictive beliefs, you can change them. Only you decide what is possible and what is impossible for you. Actually, you can create what you want to believe. Writing down your new beliefs may help you ingrain them into your mind. Once you make a conscious effort to create empowering beliefs, your limiting beliefs will stop controlling you. Essentially, be careful what you believe in because your beliefs become your reality.

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5. Be Persistent

“I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance. It is so hard. You put so much of your life into this thing. There are such rough moments in time that I think most people give up. I don’t blame them. It’s really tough and it consumes your life.” – Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was not only persistent but absolutely relentless. His will of steel made him a powerful leader for whom there were no impossible things. His tenacious pursuit of excellence and perfection was unimaginable. Even when he failed and had all the odds against himself, he didn’t fold and kept pursuing his goals.

Persistency is the cornerstone of any successful venture. If you are not persistent, it is very difficult to follow anything through. It is not easy to stay persistent, but if you can do it, you have a high chance to defy all the odds. 

Most people set goals, but never achieve them. However, as a leader, you realize that you are expected to deliver results, but without perseverance, it is impossible to lead your team and complete projects. The key takeaway for true leaders is that they need to be consistent or persistent.

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6. Learn from Failures

“Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” – Steve Jobs

We all know what it’s like to fail. It’s never nice and we rarely realize it, but failures can teach us so much. However, what we perceive as a failure can turn out to be the best thing that could happen to us. At that moment we rarely can imagine that anything good may follow this particular failure. Even Steve Jobs couldn’t know that being ousted from his own company may actually lead to compelling experiences such as Pixar or NeXT and even more successes at Apple.

When something changes, we usually oppose that change and try our best to turn it back. Not many people can accept changes, especially those turning their world totally upside down. They usually waste time and energy on futile struggles to regain what they have lost; whereas, going with the flow and focusing on new opportunities would be much more rewarding.

If you know that the only thing you can do is to accept the failure and resulting changes. Don’t fly in the face of them. Follow suit successful leaders, such as Steve Jobs, and use failure to expand your potential to accelerate your growth. Meanwhile, try to notice the silver lining, as you rarely have a chance to stop and figure out what you really want as a leader. Once you finally start to be engaged in new ventures, they will teach you much more than you can expect now. Most likely, they will give you new skills and new opportunities to bounce back even higher than you imagine.

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7. Hunt for New Experiences 

“I always thought of myself as a Humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics… Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Land of Polaroid, said about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” – Steve Jobs

Don’t be narrow-minded. By stepping out of your specialization and learning some new things, you can grow exponentially. Any skill even seemingly unimportant and useless may turn out to be useful. For instance, Steve Jobs while attending calligraphy classes discovered his passion for typefaces and learned the importance of beauty what finally resulted in Apple’s beautiful typefaces.

So everything that you experience makes an impact on you and expands your horizon. Getting out of your comfort zone and acquiring new skills may give you a new perspective on the current challenges. It is clear that fresh knowledge and skills from different fields open your eyes to breakthrough ideas and eventually to new solutions that you could utilize as a leader.

At the beginning of any new experience, we have no idea where it will take us or how it will change us. So by exposing ourselves to as many new and diverse experiences as possible, we accelerate our learning process and grow as leaders much faster.

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8. Find Your Passion

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs

Without passion, work becomes drudgery. Steve Jobs followed his passion relentlessly. He was ready to work day and night to complete the project and was surprised that not everybody was ready to work as hard as him. Substantially, nothing was impossible for him.

Passion is something that keeps us up all night. Paradoxically, it may happen that we may find our passion somehow on the way, like Steve Jobs, who wasn’t a typical electronics whiz but found his passion in the technology world and founded a technology company. After years of searching himself, he discovered what was truly driving him. 

As leaders, we should think outside the box and keep our eyes open for new opportunities that may be the doors to our true passion. Surprisingly, it may happen that we will find our passion along the way which may eventually become the essence of our life and the key to success.

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9. Strive for Excellence 

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” – Steve Jobs

Excellence is the ultimate goal. Despite it is rarely achievable, some people steadfastly believe they can reach it. One of them was Steve Jobs. He was a leader who was striving for excellence relentlessly with unprecedented tenacity, not accepting anything less than that. In fact, he was criticized for his uncompromising nature as not everybody resonates with such an approach, but the results he achieved speak for themselves.  

So the question is if we should follow suit Jobs and pursue excellence as well? It isn’t easy to answer this question because teams are different. Not each team spearheaded by an authoritarian leader will behave the same as the Jobs team. As leaders, it is our role to get to know our team and figure out what methods will be the most effective in pursuit of great results or even, at times, excellence.  

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Although Steve Jobs’ leadership methods were controversial, he was an outstanding leader who was able to make his team do things they thought were impossible. Definitely, he could inspire people and make them believe that limitations exist only in their minds.

Isn’t it what true leaders should do? 

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Author: Justine Ilone Siporski is the founder, CEO and Editor-in-chief of BUSINESS POWERHOUSE, the founder and CEO of LANGUAGE EMPIRE, coach, trainer and columnist dedicated to the advancement of entrepreneurs and the C-suite (CMOs, CEOs, CFOs, CIOs). Her key mission is to support leaders in achieving their highest potential, making the right decisions, and expanding their horizons.