Published on: October 6, 2011Steve Jobs, the co-founder and visionary leader of Apple, died yesterday of complications from pancreatic cancer, against which he had battled for a number of years. He was 56.
In his column this morning, Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal wrote:
“That Steve Jobs was a genius, a giant influence on multiple industries and billions of lives, has been written many times since he retired as Apple's chief executive in August. He was a historical figure on the scale of a Thomas Edison or Henry Ford, and set the mold for many other corporate leaders in many other industries.
“He did what a CEO should. He hired and inspired great people; managed for the long term, not the quarter or the short-term stock price; made big bets and took big risks. He insisted on the highest product quality and on building things to delight and empower actual users, not intermediaries like corporate IT directors. As he liked to say, he lived at the intersection of technology and liberal arts.
“And he could sell. Man, he could sell.”
Just a few weeks ago, in the New York Times, columnist Joe Nocera wrote about Jobs in the wake of his decision to step down as CEO because of ongoing health concerns that were, in retrospect, even worse than most people knew:
“He was not a consensus-builder but a dictator who listened mainly to his own intuition. He was a maniacal micromanager. He had an astonishing aesthetic sense, which businesspeople almost always lack. He could be absolutely brutal in meetings: I watched him eviscerate staff members for their ‘bozo ideas.’
“The Steve Jobs I watched that week was arrogant, sarcastic, thoughtful, learned, paranoid and ‘insanely’ (to use one of his favorite words) charismatic.
“The Steve Jobs the rest of the world has gotten to know in the nearly 15 years since he returned to Apple is no different. He never mellowed, never let up on Apple employees, never stopped relying on his singular instincts in making decisions about how Apple products should look and how they should work.”
And Pixar Animation Studios, which Jobs bought in 1986 and helped nurture through a a series of releases that includes Toy Story and Finding Nemo, released this statement:
“Steve Jobs was an extraordinary visionary, our very dear friend and the guiding light of the Pixar family. He saw the potential of what Pixar could be before the rest of us, and beyond what anyone ever imagined. Steve took a chance on us and believed in our crazy dream of making computer animated films; the one thing he always said was to simply ‘make it great.’ He is why Pixar turned out the way we did and his strength, integrity and love of life has made us all better people. He will forever be a part of Pixar’s DNA.”
It is worth noting - though hardly surprising - that Walter Isaacson’s highly anticipated biography of Steve Jobs, written with his cooperation, is number one on Amazon this morning, with pre-orders reportedly up 41,800% overnight. It is due out on November 21. And Time managing editor Rick Stengel told the “Morning Joe” audience this morning that he literally said “stop the presses” last night, changing the cover at the last moment to bear Jobs’ image and adding stories about the passing of the Apple leader.
- KC's View:
The tributes to Jobs have been voluminous. Too many to quote here.
As an enthusiastic user - and verbal endorser in this space - of Apple products, it was interesting how many emails I got yesterday from MNB readers who felt the desire to offer their condolences to me, almost as if I’d lost a family member. And since last night - when, while at Parents Night at my daughter’ school, and the news of Jobs’ passing popped up on my iPad, which I’d brought along to take notes - I’ve been trying to think of what I could add, of how I could “think different” about Jobs’ life.
And here it is.
Let everybody else talk about Jobs in macro terms. What I know is that Steve Jobs changed my life. For the better.
When I write MNB, I do so on a MacBook Pro that I love. I talk on an iPhone that I love. I consume books, movies, TV shows and a wide range of different media product on my iPad, which I love. I’m 56 years old - just three months older than Jobs at his death - and to a great extent, the products he and his company have created not only shape many of the parameters of my life, but have allowed me to extend those parameters to an extent that I find amazing on those rare moments when I think about them.
And maybe that’s the most insanely great thing. Because Steve Jobs and Apple have enabled me to be me in such a way that I don’t think about those things very often. I don’t have to. I just think different. And act different.
Me. And hundreds of millions of other people just like me.
For a moment, let me make a more “macro” observation...
I would suggest that as brilliant, innovative and forward thinking as Jobs was in life - focused on both design and productivity to an extent that few CEOs are, creating integrated product lines that transcend the generations, as usable and relevant to small children as they are to older folks - we will learn far more about his leadership abilities in the coming months and years. Because great leaders, it seems to me, create sustainable dreams and innovative teams that can exist and grow even without them. Will Apple be the same company without Jobs at the helm? Of course not. But, Apple certainly can continue on the course he set, creating new technologies and products, taking advantage of the winds of consumer change before anyone else has even sensed them, and finding opportunities to tell people what they need and want before even they know.
No reason to think that this cannot happen, or that this will not happen. It will all depend on the sustainability of what Steve Jobs leaves behind.