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I recently read the new biography of Steve Jobs. The man lived an amazing life. The biggest takeaway I got from the book was “Intense collaboration.”  Jobs believed: “Great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people,” and, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

Along these lines, I have found leadership to be more about facilitation than anything else. “Work is of two kinds: moving earth or matter relative to itself or getting others to do it.”  Leaders value their ability to get things done thru and with other people.  They appreciate that coordinating efforts effectively is meaningful and leads to awesome results.

Leaders Are Responsible for 3 Things-
  • Strategy- what you are trying to do; vision and communication
  • Structure –the right people, timeline, support
  • Culture- the right attitude, encouragement, behaviors

This isn’t physically strenuous work, but it’s incredibly tough.  The military model of leadership, with its emphasis on command and control, squelches creativity. In the new economy, we have to organize our teams to focus on creativity and adapting.

Here Are Some Ways I Have Learned to Accomplish This Goal:
Set a Clear Vision.

Injecting energy, drive, and passion into all areas of the business. People with passion can change the world for the better. When Jobs was hiring Scully away from Pepsi, he said to Scully, “What do you want? To sell sugar water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to change the world?” The key step to ensuring this philosophy works is the willingness to be challenged (sometimes publicly) and then admit and change course if you are on the wrong track.

Show a Strong Hand.

The collaborative leader needs to know when to step in and to “make a call,” and when not to. Sometimes this is needed to free up or unblock a discussion or to clearly give direction so that agility and speed to market are maintained.

You Gotta Have Meetings.

Jobs had meetings…3-hour meetings. Jobs explained: “Our method was to develop integrated products, and that meant our process had to be integrated and collaborative.”  Jobs built the Pixar headquarters in a way that people would meet constantly. He even suggested having only two bathrooms in the whole building (!) so people would meet as frequently as possible. They ended up putting in only 4

Open Up Communication.

Job’s didn’t organize Apple into semi-autonomous divisions – a mistake made by companies like Sony, AOL, and Time-Warner.  Instead, he closely controlled his teams and “pushed them to work as one cohesive and flexible company” with one profit-and-loss bottom line for them all. No silos, no divisions everybody accountable to that same bottom line.  Ensure team members understand all parts of the business.

Be a Talent Scout for People Better Than Yourself.

Never be afraid of bringing on people smarter than you.  What people are aching for is meaningful work and leadership.  As smart as Jobs was he never knew how to build a computer.  Attract the best team players by rewarding members for common, not individual, goals. Your goal is to move a group of people towards a common goal. Set expectations and hold people accountable.

Divide Up Projects Into People.

Instead of creating committees, assign projects to a person. Then, let them form their own teams.

Don’t Fear Conflict.

Collaboration not compromise. Argue, debate and discuss- Frame conflicts as healthy discussion.  Gain consensus but don’t lose control. Promote optimism and determination

Have a “Reality Distortion Field”.

Great Groups are fueled by an invigorating, sometimes unrealistic view of what they can accomplish. “not just great, but “insanely great.”   The iPad was really  Steve Jobs’s life’s work. Everybody thought it was impossible. He would tell them it IS possible!  He focused on what he wanted and made the engineers do it.  Start with the end in mind.  Jobs relentlessly pursued his goals. In our current recession, we have to have a “distortion field.”  We have to force ourselves to think positively. Otherwise, we’re done before we even begin.

Now, Lead Them.

People don’t want to be managed, that they want to be led…inspired! Great Groups need leaders who encourage and enable. Who believes in them and their work.

Most Importantly, Have FUN.

We all spend a lot of time building businesses, innovating and taking products to market. So hang out with the talented people you want to be with, having a few laughs. Take the business seriously, but not ourselves!  Have Dinner and drinks together. Promote your own language, in-house-jokes, and traditions. Keep it light, have Fun

All the best
-Kevin

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