Friday, November 18, 2011

9 Leadership (Associations/Nonprofits) Lessons from Steve Jobs

Since the death of Steve Jobs, all kinds of books, videos and news articles have chronicled the life and beliefs of Steve Jobs. Many have focused on his quote that putting a sales person at the top can ruin a company because they focus on the bottom line rather than innovation.

Jamie Notter did a great job and tied his comments on CEO into his latest efforts regarding humanizing our organizations ( Larry Dignan focused on the sales quote in his post for Zdnet. ( This week, I went back and viewed the 2007 joint video interviews Kenzoki ( conducted of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Wow. Some really great stuff for you and others leading associations and nonprofit organizations!

Confession: I’m not an Apple guy. I don’t have a Mac. Nor an iPhone. Nor, sadly, an iPad. Yet, I can’t help but admire the individual that led these and other innovations.
Nine leadership lessons emerged for you and others in the nonprofit world.
1. Have passion.
  • Love your work/job enough to persevere through tough times. If you don’t have passion why bother!
2. Be a talent scout.
  • You need to find the right people, turn them lose and trust them.
3. Remember who/what you are.
  • Focus on your strengths and your core services/benefits/people. Apple viewed itself as a software company that put its products in a beautiful box.
4. Let go of the past.
  • Love this one. Look forward. It’s all about what happens tomorrow. So, go invent tomorrow.
5. Solve problems.
  • “It’s great when you show something to someone and you don’t have to convince them they have a problem. They know and say ‘OMG, I need this!”
6. Partner with people who are really good at stuff; Learn how to partner.
  • Sometimes we in associations decide it is easier to go it alone (Jobs said Apple had same issues). Yet through partnerships, we can create better services for our members/donors. (I think of the Ag Media Summit, a joint annual conference of three organizations that is far better than what the three groups did on their own.)
7. Know what to augment vs what to replace.
  • This is really important for associations and nonprofits. Our board often approve new projects without reviewing existing programs to determine if they should be modified or eliminated. 
8. Don’t give up too soon.
  • Hearing his advice made me think of Seth Godin’s book “the Dip.” When you are creating exciting stuff you don’t want to give up just before it becomes a success.
9. Design it right.
  • Jobs was famous for his attention to detail and design inside and out. As he said, I want the stuff in a beautiful box. 
So, what do you think? Are you able to incorporate these leadership ideas into your organization and its culture? What are the roadblocks?

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