November 21, 2009

Learning from Steve Jobs, CEO of the Decade

Fortune Magazine (23 November 2009) named Steve Jobs of Apple, the CEO of the decade.

Steve Jobs’ unveiled his “digital lifestyle” strategy in 2000 when Apple was worth about $5 billion. Now almost a decade later, Apple is worth about $170 billion—slightly more than Google. Apple has revolutionized the markets for music, movies, mobile telephones, as well as computing.

Steve Jobs embodies User-centric leadership in every way:

Customer is #1—Apple’s products satisfy customers. “He may not pay attention to customer research, but he works slavishly to make products customers will buy.” There is intuitiveness to Steve Jobs’ understanding of people and technology. He knows what customers want even if they don’t or can’t articulate it and he designs the technology around the customer. Think iPhone, iPod, and Mac—they are some of the easiest and most customer friendly technologies out there; hence 100,000 applications for the iPhone, 73% of the MP3 player market, and some of the best PCs on the market today.

Innovation is key—Apple is consistently ahead of the curve. Their products are leaders, not follower-copycats. Despite losing the PC wars to Microsoft Windows, the Mac operating system, functionality, and design has been the one setting the standard for ease of use, speed, and security. The iTunes/iPod completely upended the music and movie industry, and the iPhone is the envy of just about every professional and consumer out there who doesn’t yet own one.

Holistic Solutions Delivery—Steve Jobs delivers a comprehensive solution’s architecture for the customer, and it shows with his merging of hardware, software, and service solutions. For example, “over the course of 2001…Apple launched iTunes music software (in January), the Mac OS X operating system (March), the first Apple retail stores (May), and the first iPod (November).” In 2002, Jobs told Time, “We’re the only company that owns the whole widget—the hardware, the software, and the operating system. We take full responsibility for the customer experience.”

Design Genius—The design of Apple’s products are sheer genius. They are sleek, elegant, compact, mobile, yet user-friendly—they are timeless, and pieces such as the G4 Cube have actually been showcased in The Museum of Modern Art and The Digital Design Museum. Even the Apple store in Manhattan with its winding glass staircases and cube entrance is a tourist destination in NYC.

Big Picture, Little Picture—Jobs is a master of balancing the strategic and tactical aspects of product execution. Jobs set the vision, but is also involved in the execution. “He’s involved in details you wouldn’t think a CEO would be involved in.” Apple is his passion and his desire for virtual perfection comes across the spectrum of both product and service from the company.

Mastery of the Message—he rehearses over and over every line he and others utter in public about Apple.” And it’s not only the contents of the message, but also the timing. Jobs knows how to keep a product launch secret until just the right moment. MacWorld, for example, has been used to strategically communicate the launch of new products, and this has kept both Apple fans and competitors closely tuned to these events.

Steve Jobs is a true model of leadership excellence due in no small measure to his relentless pursuit comprehensive product solutions based on innovation, design excellence, and customer service excellence.

Great Jobs!


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