3. ‘Taking responsibility end to end’.

As the title suggests this leadership lesson is about taking control and taking responsibility, we have a conscious choice about everything we do, who we are and what we focus on. What we achieve is all down to us and no one else, we are in control of our ‘circle of influence’ and Steve Jobs was someone who made this a key rule of engagement. This sense of taking responsibility end to end is again about making things simpler, having one point of contact and simplifying the process of managing ‘the whole widget’ as he put it, those widgets being the Apple products, the iPod, Mac, iTunes and so on.

This strong sense of taking responsibility and control stemmed from Jobs’ controlling personality, he was an individual quite unique in terms of being both a visionary and having a desire to be in the decision process of even the smallest detail, for instance the design of rivets and screws on the outer shells of Apple products. Usually the capacity for blue sky vision and intricate detail don’t come hand in hand from the very fact that they are very different skills and motivators, albeit each as valuable as each other in delivering a product. Of course alongside this sense of control was also a very real passion for perfection and making beautiful, elegant products.

In the 1980s Microsoft and Google allowed for more flexibility in the market that would allow various hardware companies to run their operating systems and software. Jobs was not interested in this and his focus was to keep Apple software within Apple products only. He did not want to lose control and offer Apple software in other company’s hardware. This held the danger of leading to uninspiring experiences or unearthing a plethora of un-approved apps that might slowly chip away at the elegance, depth and sophistication that was Apple. In his mission to retain responsibility, Jobs was not interested in anything that might ‘pollute the perfection of an Apple device’ so he resisted the temptation of going down the road that others were taking, in itself a commendable sign of strong and purposeful leadership.

This concept of taking responsibility and focusing on our circle of influence makes me think of a very inspiring quote from Michael Bungay Stanier around influence and control:

‘Some people explain why they don’t worry like this – If it’s outside their control, there’s nothing they can do.  So they don’t worry.  And if it is inside their control, they’d sort it out.  So they don’t worry.’  

Steve Jobs was someone who sorted things out, he focused on what he was in control of and the innovations and beautiful products he co-created over a lifetime are plain to see.

Next time we look at the fourth leadership lesson – ‘When behind, leapfrog’.