A leader in the Steve Jobs model needs to have a set of lieutenants who can translate his goals and vision into detailed action plans. The success of Apple through the years has largely been due to Steve’s talent for surrounding himself with people who could bear the heat when he wasn’t satisfied, were strong enough to stand up to him when he was wrong, and were able to relay not just his instructions but his commitment, drive, and vision to the crew.
In an innovative organization, the role of the team leaders is more critical than in a traditional process-oriented organization. It’s even more important in flat organizations where the leader is actively involved in the organization, operations, and key projects.
The key responsibilities of the team leaders are to balance the day-to-day operations and at the same time be the key advisors to the head honcho on the direction of the organization. They also have to be the liaison between the leader and the working-level troops—the designers, developers, engineers, and so on. Having the total ear of the leader and being a credible sounding board are key to the success of not just the team leaders but the company as a whole. Team leaders at Apple needed to be risk-takers and to have an entrepreneurial spirit.