Fortune Magazine picked Henry Ford as the most influential businessman of the 20th century. My premature hunch is that Steve Jobs will be the one nominated for the 21st century even though we are just 11% of way through it. I only wish I would be around long enough to find out.
If he is, he will be recognized not just as the most influential businessperson, but the person that, more than any other, changed nearly every facet of our society.
We all have our shortcomings, Steve not excluded. This is not about where he came up short. This is about where he excelled.
- Steve was resilient. He came back from adversity. He may not have bounced back, as it took him over a decade, but after being thrown out of the company that he founded, he was brought back by the board to resume his presidency.
- Steve was relentless. He was obsessive to the extreme. He would not compromise in even the slightest of details, many of which were merely aesthetic. Design had to equal function. His passion for excellence, however difficult for those that worked for him, resulted in the development of products that in a little more than ten years took Apple from near bankruptcy to one of the two most valued corporations in America.
- Steve was inspirational. He elevated the game of those he worked with. He may have driven his cohorts excessively and insensitively, but in doing so he was able, through his leadership, to enable his people to achieve accomplishments they would not have been able to achieve without him.
- Steve was not driven by the almighty dollar. The accumulation of personal wealth was secondary to producing and marketing products that impacted the world. While Bill Gates built a multi-million dollar mansion with every conceivable embellishment Steve lived without furniture in a home a fraction the size of Bill’s. He shunned philanthropy, not because he was indifferent to the needy, but because his goal was to create the best products in the world. He would not be deterred by either hoarding or the distraction of gifting.
- Steve was invigorated by the prospect of a premature death. His most significant accomplishments were achieved after he recognized he did not have long to live. Only when he realized that he had nothing left to lose was he able to introduce the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, and the MacBook Air.
It has been said that life is not measured by how many breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away. Steve Jobs had more than his share of moments that took his breath away, but those moments did not fall serendipitously into his lap. He experienced them because he single handedly created them.