Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson is offering 10 leadership tips based on the lessons of Steve Jobs in reaction to the commentators who have tried to draw their own management lessons from the biography.

Isaacson’s The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs is published in the Harvard Business Review April Issue. He writes: “In the months since my biography of Jobs came out, countless commentators have tried to draw management lessons from it. Some of those readers have been insightful, but I think that many of them (especially those with no experience in entrepreneurship) fixate too much on the rough edges of his personality.” (More below…)

He adds: “The essence of Jobs, I think, is that his personality was integral to his way of doing business. He acted as if the normal rules didn’t apply to him, and the passion, intensity, and extreme emotionalism he brought to everyday life were things he also poured into the products he made. His petulance and impatience were part and parcel of his perfectionism.”

Isaacson’s 13 lessons, based on Walter Isaacson's biography, are as follows. If you wish to hear Walter Isaacson speak about the book, he will be giving a lecture at the Royal Institution tomorrow evening. 


Focus: Asking “What are the 10 things we should be doing next” and then picking three.

Simplify: Eliminating the on/off button on the iPod showed Jobs’ Zen simplicity. The iPhone does not need a user’s manual.

Take responsibilty: Everything is tightly linked, Apple takes full responsibility for the user experience.

Leapfrog: You don’t have to be a pioneer, just innovate to solve problems a different way.

Product before profit: Focus on making the product great and the profits will follow.

Don't use focus groups: “Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

Bend reality: The Reality Distortion Field let Jobs convince people that they could produce great work in days rather than months. For example, telling the company behind Gorilla glass that they could create it in weeks.

Impute: Make a box where the unpacking is part of the glory of the product.

Push for perfection: Jobs pushed his team to achieve perfection and be proud of it. “Real artists sign their work,” he said.

Tolerate only “A” players: Jobs had a desire to work with the best. He didn't want to work with any “bozos”.

Engage face-to-face: Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings - if a building didn’t encourage innovation, you lose the magic sparked by serendipity.

Know both the big picture and the details: Jobs’ passion was applied to issues both large and small. Including the vision that the PC should become a hub for managing all of a user’s content, and that that hub would become the cloud.

Combine the humanities with the sciences: No one else in our era could better firewire together poetry and processors in a way that jolted innovation

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish: As Jobs said in his Stanford address: follow your own dreams, don’t live someone else’s life.

If you enjoyed the Walter Isaacson Steve Jobs biography, you may be interested to hear that a new Steve Jobs book has been published, this time written by someone who worked closely with Apple’s late-CEO. Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success is written by Ken Segall, who worked closely with Jobs on various ad campaigns at both NeXT and Apple. He was also one of the team to came up with the Think Different campaign and we have him to thank for the name iMac.

The book also looks at the leadership lessons that Segall learned from Jobs. Forbes has highlighted these in an article.

Simpler is always better: Jobs’ advice: “One product, one box.”

Blunt communication works: Bluntness leaves no room for confusion, distraction or complexity.

Good leaders can compartmentalize: Jobs compartmentalized criticism so he could move towards his goals.

Small groups work better: Restrict meetings to people who would be discussing the topic at hand.

Keep things minimal and move quickly: Apple campaigns are put out within a month.

Simple names are superior: Apple does not hire naming experts, it relys on a small internal team and a group of advertising consultants

Simplicity is human: Not a five-gigabyte drive on an iPod, but “1,000 songs in your pocket.

Simplicity even works in retail: Focus on quality, uncluttered and inviting design and fantastic customer service.