Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs: The Transformation of Imperfect Leadership

Continuing the theme of GOATS, the greatest of all time, let’s step away from sport and move into the greatest in business…Steve Jobs! Jobs’ journey to becoming one of the greatest business leaders of all time is far from perfect and straight forward, but it is very truthful in showing just how challenging the road to success often is!

Steve Jobs founded Apple Inc. in 1976 but was removed from his own company due to a power-struggle with members of the board. Jobs then went on to create another start-up which was then purchased by Apple, to which Steve Jobs returned to in the 90’s and created the most valuable company in the world! Jobs also bought Pixar in 1985 and sold it to Disney in 2006, adding to his resounding success. As we have seen, the greatest of all time in any field consciously cultivate three things money cannot buy: time, purpose, and trust. While Steve Jobs was often described as hard to be around and a tough boss in his first stint at Apple Inc, he turned it around with his second chance.

A Master of Time

Time cannot be bought, but it can be saved, and Steve Jobs was a huge advocate for saving time by filtering distractions. Walter Isaacson who wrote the biography of Steve Jobs after he passed away in 2011 had worked very closely with Jobs over the years. Isaacson said, “Steve was very, very strict about filtering out what he thought of as distractions.” This alone speaks volumes as to why this company is so successful. Time was precious to leader at the very top of the company, and so it was precious to everyone under him.

Steve Jobs said, “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” This mentality is called ‘task shedding’. Task shedding is about working out what needs to be done now and what can be done later. This laser-focus on the now is key to the success of Jobs and Apple, as his clear head allowed him to give his energy fully to the now, working towards the future. “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Steve Jobs’ clear and simple mindset surrounding time is not something every leader has, but is something that every leader should be working towards. In his own words, simple can be harder than complex, but it’s worth it! Time is something you can’t buy, so you need to work with what you have. Continually task shed, get your priorities in order, and work smarter not harder to create more success where you are!

Purpose-driven Action: Do what you love

Steve Jobs was a huge advocate for loving what you do and in his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address his parting message was this: “The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Attributing to his resounding success was his love for his work and his belief that it was meaningful. Work done with passion has extraordinary results!  

Goal orientated businesses that know their High-Definition Destination (HDD)c are on track for success, and Apple has been no exception. Steve Jobs’ HDD for the company was to build beautiful products that solved problems and made people’s lives easier and better. As we all know, this goal has and continues to inform the products and actions of Apple, leaving continuing success as a legacy in the wake of Jobs’ leadership.

Apple is the perfect example of a goal, purpose and HDD orientated company and its success is a testament to that! Clearly, loving what you do, finding purpose where you are and creating a HDD for your company are some key lessons from the life and leadership of Steve Jobs. I have seen these elements revolutionise many companies and the way that they achieve success, you are no exception!

Empowered Leaders, Empowered Teams

Trust in business is essential! Teams do not operate cohesively and execute successfully if trust is absent. Some people would argue that Jobs’ first stint at Apple Inc was unsuccessful due to the people he was surrounded by. When Jobs came back to become Apple’s CEO in 1997, he was able to choose a team of people that he trusted and deemed capable, which was essential to his and the company’s immense success!

Steve Jobs also understood the power of empowerment. Jobs empowered his team to do their tasks, innovate their ideas and provide input into their work as they see fit. The key element of empowerment is trust. Jobs built trust with his core team, created cohesive alignment of vision across the board and then empowered them to create success in their own role as they walked towards their High-Definition Destination.

These are some key points of leadership that Steve Jobs exhibits that are still and always will be relevant to business and leaders everywhere! Teams simply cannot work to their maximum potential without trust and leaders are responsible for cultivating it! Psychological safety is key in workplaces for people to feel valued, seen and to work effectively. Trust is the leading factor of innovation; it also improves decision making time and repels stagnation in teams. Empowerment and trust give your team the tools to aim for and achieve success!  

The Lessons of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was a master of time, knew it was not an endless resource and prioritised his tasks accordingly. Jobs was goal orientated and only took steps in the direction of his HDD and led his team to success, which continues today. Jobs also knew his team wouldn’t go far without trust and so he emphasised on staff autonomy is the direction of the HDD and empowerment to take the steps to reach it!

Imperfect leadership is something we all experience, whether we are under it or are it, but as Steve Jobs has shown us, the GOAT of business, it doesn’t have to stay that way! Begin or continue to cultivate the priceless elements of business and watch mediocrity transform into purpose-driven success!


Brownlee, D. (2019). 5 reasons why trust matters on teams. Forbes.

Guglielmo, C. (2012). A day in the life of Steve Jobs. Forbes.

Haden, J. (n.d.). Steve Jobs wanted what every remarkably successful person wants. INC.

The Churning. (2021). Steve Jobs on purpose and values. The Churning.

Walter, I. (2012). The real leadership lessons of Steve Jobs. Harvard Business Review.

Yarow, J. (2015). How Steve Jobs became the greatest businessman the world has ever known. Business Insider.

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