10.06.11

Exceptional Steve Jobs

Posted in , Society at 9:16 by RjZ

The exception proves the rule. On 5 October, Steve Jobs, one of the exceptional died.

I’ve written about the CEO club on more than one occasion. The CEO club is my name for the concept that we give extra credit to CEOs for the work they do at companies when, in fact, correlating their success with the company’s turns out to be difficult to prove, and worse, being a CEO guarantees that, regardless of how poor past performance is, another company will welcome you aboard to destroy their value as well.

Steve Jobs, so the evidence suggests, was an exception.

He co-founded Apple and they did amazing things. He was forced out and they floundered. While away he invested in Pixar, a struggling company and they went on to make computer animated cartoons that make grown men cry. He rejoined Apple and they became one of the world’s most valuable brands. Listing the rest of his accompishments will be done over and over again around the web today. They should be read with awe not only for the acheivements, but for the force of will and ability to succeed they suggest: he got the music industry to agree to an entirely new (to them) model of business!

Steve Jobs can’t take credit alone. At nearly every developer conference or product announcement he took a moment to thank the tireless engineers and staff of Apple who do the real work of changing the world. John Lasseter is a creative genius, but he too describes Jobs as the “guiding light of the Pixar family.” Yet, while Jobs didn’t do it alone, he was, over and over again, the common denominator driving companies to simply “make it great.”

I have used Macintosh computers and operating systems since 1986. (If it weren’t for my Commodore 64 being so great, I might have had an Apple sooner. The Commodore had a Pi key, for heaven’s sake!) I’ve used the much maligned Newton (best OS ever. no, really) and heard the news of Jobs’ passing on my iPhone. I’ve watched friends and family change their minds about Apple and come to appreciate the “it just works” philosophy (my brother now owns more macs than I, even if he was a bitter anti-mac for years), and the reaction to this college drop-out’s passing around the world is another proof of his exceptional talent.

It may be difficult to truly identify just what a company leader brings to the organization and most will go on taking more credit than they rightfully deserve, but decades of actual evidence points to Steve Jobs talent for success. Apple will go on to make great products. Pixar will make great movies without Jobs’ inspiration. But the CEO club has lost one of its few members who actually deserved to be there and around the world many mourn the loss of a true inspriration.

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