How to be a Leader, by Steve Jobs

Stanton Peele By: Dr. Stanton Peele

Posted on November 9th, 2015 - Last updated: March 6th, 2020
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Steve Jobs reveals his success secrets from beyond the Pearly Gates.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” Steve Jobs, college dropout, 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech.


Okay, I never wrote a leadership manual while I was alive. But, now that I. . . .ahem. . . .have some free time, I’m finally getting around to it. Of course, even now I’m not one for sitting around ruminating. So I’ll make this short and sweet.

1.  Vision, vision, vision. I knew what had to be—the interface between computers, electronics, and people had to be as easy and thoughtless as, well, actual being and thinking. And the objects had to be APPEALING, beautiful. The machine had to cease being a machine, and become an extension of the person’s mind and body. Of course, that was my motto: “Technology alone is not enough (link is external).” When I watched that Xerox PARC demonstration (link is external) where I saw a mouse and a windows operating system for the first time—I could barely sit still. “This is it,” I thought, “the breakthrough. They’ve found ways to translate into mechanical-computer terms very essential elements of how people actually think and function.” Of course, Xerox didn’t find a way to put that technology at people’s fingertips—I did that—made the workable products. I was screaming at them, “Why aren’t you doing anything with this? This is the greatest thing. This is revolutionary!” But they didn’t have my vision.

2.  Devil take the hindmost. Okay, I didn’t follow my mother’s lessons about politeness (link is external) (where was she when I needed her?). That’s because I knew people are happiest when they are motivated and productive—like me. So, when I came into a room, I never thought, “Oh, Jane is insecure, I need to be really careful with her feelings.” I thought, “Jane is doing junkwork, and she’ll never be happy (I know I won’t) until she elevates her game to a point where she’s producing exceptional things, perfectly executed. If she can’t do that—well, I don’t want to know her.” (Note: You better be successful with this attitude—otherwise, people will hate you—and even if you are successful, plenty still will.)

3.  I can relax when I’m dead. You know, I’m dead now. But I was always conscious that I would die—always. What does that mean? It means, why take the safe route; you end up at the same place anyhow. But if you take all the risks along the way, at least the journey is interesting and you leave your mark on the planet. I know, I know—people say I’m a genius. But what does that mean? It means when I got a crazy idea—like to make the Macintosh as sleek, and perfect, and usable as was humanly possible—I didn’t rest until it became a reality. And when I was out at Apple, I never ceased thinking and working until they had to take me back. Boy, I wouldn’t be a happy spirit now if I hadn’t made that happen.

4.  People are extensions of my mind. Of course, I couldn’t create a Macintosh. I couldn’t even create something like a mouse. I mean, I am a genius (there, it feels better now that I can say that), and I know what those things needed to look like and how they had to work. But I’m no technical genius (and neither is that big stiff, Bill Gates). I didn’t have the time, inclination, or, really, the skill to produce things myself. But I knew which people did, and I counted on them. No, I forced them (see No. 2) to do what had to be done. They were an extension of my vision, which I conveyed to them, but which only I had complete in my mind. For instance, Dean Hovey—a talented industrial engineer—came to me with a bunch of ideas after I got back from Xerox PARC. I screamed at him, “No, no, no, you’ve got to do a mouse.” He was, like, “What’s a mouse?” When I told him, he made one out of stuff he picked up at a hardware store, or somewhere.

5.  Don’t look back. Some people said I flopped at Pixar (link is external) when I left Apple. They point to the failure of the Pixar Image Computer, a $125,000 machine capable of generating complex graphic images. It was just too damn expensive. Like I didn’t know that! I know what people said about me at Pixar: “Steve would just not suffer a defeat. He couldn’t sustain it.” But that wasn’t a defeat; that was a colossal triumph! My vision of what they could be was what transformed Pixar into one of the most successful movie-making machines in the history of that industry. And I was just warming up to get back into Apple to create the iPad and iPod, which are really cut from the same cloth as Pixar, as well as from the Mac, when you think about it.

Listen, it’s been great schmoozing, but I’ve got this whole idea for how to manipulate the heavenly gates a lot better than this old geezer St. Peter. I see people opening and closing them on their own, with a little gadget they carry with them in their coffins so that they can navigate their journey here (you know, like the trips people report after nearly dying). I call it the iDap (iDeath is a little too graphic, if you know what I mean). Gotta run (or whatever it is we do up here).By the way, a lot of people are surprised to learn that I’m here at all. I guess God really appreciates success.

Article by Dr. Stanton Peele for Psychology Today.Dr. Stanton Peele is the recipient of career achievement awards from the Center for Alcohol Studies and the Drug Policy Alliance. His Life Process Program for treating addiction is available online.

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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