Now that Apple’s Steve Jobs has announced he is taking another medical leave of absence, there’s been a frenzy of chatter in the media about what will happen to Apple without him. My favorite analysis of a “Job-less” Apple is this well-thought out FastCompany article, How Apple Could Fall Without Steve.
It balances Job’s strengths (vision, energy) and weaknesses (odd resistances, such as the Adobe/flash debate, firewire vs. USB) and how Apple would fare without him at the helm. The author also rightly acknowledges that “Jobs isn’t the only genius in the world.”
And that got me thinking: how does one individual become so intertwined with a company that the two become almost one? It’s hard to tell what came first, the Apple or the Jobs. But Jobs’ vision, energy and passion is inspiring and drives the business. You either love or hate Apple (and Jobs for that matter), but there’s no denying that Apple is the darling of the technology world at this moment. But now everyone is wondering if, and how, his absence might change everything.
Are you the next Steve Jobs?
Whether you work in technology, retail, marketing, construction or any other industry, do you have what it takes to be a Steve Jobs? You don’t need to be Jobs to be considered integral to your company or business–but you do need to be considered valuable. Resourceful. Visionary. Passionate. You need to bring that je ne sais quoi to your work that makes people care whether you stay or go.
Coming out of one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression, we’ve all learned that we are replaceable. Heck, even Jobs is replaceable, although the results are debatable. So we’re all looking for ways to make ourselves as irreplaceable as possible, to make people worry about what would happen next if we were gone.
“A hundred years from now? All new people.”
So knowing that there will be all new people 100 years from now, how do you make your mark today? (Surely Jobs thinks of this as he battles pancreatic cancer.) And when I say that, I don’t mean, how do you drive a company to billions of dollars in profit. I mean, what drives you? What do you care about? How can you become a visionary leader in your own life or job?
Off the top of my head, I think it requires these six things:
Have a vision. Take time to think about your vision for the future. What is your ideal job? What are you doing daily? What does that look like? What’s the big picture for you? For your job? For your industry as a whole? Anticipate a trend; visualize how you see things going. Then stay true to your vision until it happens or until it doesn’t feel right anymore or you have reason to believe otherwise. You can always tweak your vision. But if you’re working without one, you might as well be walking around blind-folded.
Innovate. What problem, big or small, drives you crazy? How can you solve it? What’s missing in the world and why? What can you do about it? What is something you’d like to change? Companies that don’t take a risk or change or continue to produce new ideas grow stagnate or become followers more than leaders. (Microsoft, anyone?)
The same is true for people. When was the last time you took a chance, whether it’s speaking up at the staff meeting or exploring that new product idea you’ve been toying with for years? Be bold. Be daring. Be creative.
Listen. What are people talking about? What do they want? Based on what you hear and know, what do you think people want that they haven’t even articulated yet? For Jobs, it was good design, innovation and products that “just work.” This will also help you know when it’s time to change course or reshape your vision. After all, just because it’s your vision doesn’t mean it’s right or the that the world is ready for it.
Find your passion. I can’t imagine anything worse than waking up every day feeling dead inside because you don’t love what you do. If you don’t feel inspired or challenged, if you’re just going through the motions, think about what you wanted to be when you were 10 years old. Remember what you liked to do with your time and energy before “real life” kicked in.
Find some way to incorporate that passion into your day right now, this very minute. Watch the color come back into your face and into the world around you.
Believe. In yourself, in your idea, in the fact that you can make it work. Because trust me, there are going to be days when no one believes in you, including yourself. You’re going to lose faith. You’ll question yourself, doubt your decisions, especially when the going gets tough. But if you can reach into your heart and say with all honesty, “This is what I believe in,” and hear it answered back to yourself, you’ll get through it.
This is also about believing in people around you. If you surround yourself with good people–the right people–you will have others to lean on when you lose faith. Ideally, these people will call you out on your bullshit. They won’t just tell you what you want to hear. You should believe in them too, because belief goes both ways.
Fail. Taking a chance, risking something, putting yourself “out there”–it’s scary. It doesn’t feel good to fail, so most of us avoid it at all costs. But you can survive it. You can’t get to the next level or the next big idea or where you’re supposed to be if you don’t fail once in a while. No one is perfect, not even Steve Jobs. Apple TV isn’t quite where it needs to be yet, for example.
But if you are willing to take a chance on something you believe in–if you give yourself permission to try, and you fail–whatever “failure” means to you–you’re a winner because you had the guts to try. You can always change your dream or change your course, but if you never try because you were too afraid, that’s the saddest failure of all.