About five months after joining Apple, I pressed Steve for a conversation about his views on the principles of leadership. He asked me to his house one evening. Throughout his early adult life, Steve lived in homes almost bare of furniture, a result, I believe, of his embracing Buddhism after a trip to India in his early 20s. In one bare room of his house in Los Gatos, near Cupertino, Steve discussed how industry needed to recognize that innovation could come from any place, and how managers, leaders, and entrepreneurs had to change the ways innovation is encouraged and practiced. This kind of thinking is widely accepted now (even if not widely practiced), but at the time it was exciting and radical.
Steve also offered some reflections that were the opposite of the prevailing management wisdom I had learned. “It’s not my job to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways to get resources for the key projects,” he said. “It’s my job to push the team and make them even better, coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be.”
We also talked about something he was holding me accountable for: how to communicate to the Macintosh team the way that Steve intended to practice innovation. My suggestion was that his ideas would stick better if he communicated them with powerful metaphors and storytelling.
I left there that night and was struck by a thought: I’ve been studying leadership for years ...