Steve Jobs: Leadership vs Marketing

Steve Jobs: “It’s Not the Consumer’s Job to Know What They Want”

In a brilliant post about Steve Jobs and the US Government, NY Times blogger Matt Bai points out the difference between true leadership and it’s antithesis: relying on focus groups and polls instead of taking risks.

In other words, while Mr. Jobs tried to understand the problems that technology could solve for his buyer, he wasn’t going to rely on the buyer to demand specific solutions, just so he could avoid ever having to take a risk. This is what’s commonly known as leading.

Were it not for Jobs’ brilliance and insight, would we have the sleek, user-friendly yet sophisticated tools that Jobs introduced through MAC? In the 1980s when computers were in ugly tan boxes, would the average “public” person surveyed en masse have provided the sheer genius of Steve Jobs?

My opinion is no. Jobs’ approach defies today’s marketing and political metrics that dictate a near- compulsive consultation with “the market” via polls and surveys. I will admit, these are valuable. But do they stifle genius?

Mat Bai also points out how Jobs merged community with individuality. While his devices provided an unprecedented autonomy and personalized computer experience, he recognized as well the importance of community and created tools to facilitate that. Yet government, Bai points out, still lives in the world of polarities:

Either we’re being told that centralized, 20th century systems can never be changed to accommodate more individual flexibility (like say, decoupling health care from employment), or we’re being told that all federal programs are wasteful and that everyone American should basically fend for himself. Either we’re supposed to rely entirely on large institutions, or we’re supposed to rely only on ourselves.

Will the Steve Jobs leadership example be emulated in Washington? The founding fathers drafted a document that created the freest country on earth when the average citizen had no interest in waging a war with England. Had they had polls at the time, we might have a different country.

There are, no doubt, many Steve Jobs’ in the world in different industries. Let his vision, kindness, toughness and indomitable spirit inspire us all.

Thank you, Steve Jobs.


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