Beyond the amazing innovations he has brought to our world, there are three lessons I have learned by observing Steve Jobs, the leader, from afar.  And the good news is that these don’t require being an inventive genius to be useful.

Career Resilience

Steve Jobs was publicly and unceremoniously fired, yet came back to rise again.  As leaders, we all have set backs, and it is valuable to have examples of successful people who have failed publicly and then bounced back to achieve even greater success.

Sometimes setbacks are a sign that you aren’t the right person for that time or situation, or maybe you are and they have gotten it wrong, or maybe you were unintentionally doing more harm than good.  Whatever the reason, the key is what you do in the interim:  learn, regroup and keep moving forward.

Sustainable Leadership

The sign of a great organization is whether it can transcend the span of any one particular leader, whether we are talking about dynasties in ancient China, armies in the Middle Ages, or today’s corporate world.

At this early stage, the signs are that Steve Jobs and his board have created a succession plan that can carry on the mission far into the future.  Not only is there top leadership bench strength, more importantly it seems they have managed to inculcate the entire company with the ethos, mindset and “DNA” that makes Apple Apple.

Leadership resides in every employee, not just at the top.

Personal Courage

Whether or not we possess the insight and genius of Steve Jobs, we can adopt his courage.  He had the courage of his convictions, took calculated risks and was willing to stand for what he believed, even in the face of criticism and, in the early years, even ridicule.  When everyone else was rushing to the equivalent of the “sale aisle at Walmart”, he was focused on his own true north.

So, thank you Mr. Jobs for your lessons in leadership – and for rocking our world.  My fellow Meyler Campbell coach, Anne Waldron, summed up the news of his passing best:  “another star that’s gone back to the universe.”


Photo credit: EPA