Apple CEO and co-founder, Steve Jobs was the most inspiring and inspired individual I have ever met and worked for. Today precisely seven years after his passing his name is still synonymous with visionary, genius, innovator, and icon. He revolutionized the world with ground-breaking innovations with the personal computer, iPod, iPhone, and iPad.
Steve was and still is a role model for many struggling entrepreneurs, ousted business leaders, college drop-outs, adoptees, and disease-fighting people who could relate to his journey. Many people aspire to be like him and drew from his courage and “think outside the box” mindset.
I recently re-connected with one of those people whom Steve had a direct impact on. Mike Slade, Strategic Advisor to Steve, was on the executive team when I worked for Steve Jobs as his Executive Assistant at Apple. Mike worked for him from 1998 through 2004. He considered Steve like a brother. They had connected on many levels and were very close. They shared their passion for marketing, products, and the tech scene.
I remember the two of them spending every Monday and Tuesday together. After the executive staff meeting on Monday mornings, Mike would shadow Steve at every meeting for those two days. Their weekly standing meetings included Avie Tevanian’s team which were initially developing and then improving Mac OS X. They always met with Sina Tamaddon’s group who was building out the built-in core apps for OS X such as iMovie, iDVD, iTunes, and iPhoto. The advertising team from Chiat/Day was another weekly meeting that would not be missed.
Mike and Steve often had lunch together on those days. After lunch, they would wander into Jony Ive’s lab (aka Steve’s “sandbox”). They would often lose track of time, and I would have to track Steve down by calling Mike’s cell phone. The irony was Steve did not carry a cell phone.
Many people wonder what it was like to work for Steve and this is often the first question people ask me when they learn I use to work for him. In Steve’s honor, I chose to ask a former executive and good friend of Steve’s, Mike Slade, what his experience was working for such an iconic leader.
Naz Beheshti: What was it like to work for Steve Jobs?
Mike Slade: We had a lot of fun together. We laughed a lot. We were serious as well, but because we knew each other quite well and partially because I had no turf to protect, he let his guard down with me.
Beheshti: What are some key lessons or great advice you received from Steve that has made you a better leader and person today?
Slade: Steve always encouraged me to think outside of the box. Just taking the contrarian view as an exercise is something not enough people do in business, politics or life. Steve was not conflict avoidant in any way, and although this rubbed many people the wrong way it helped flesh issues out into the open. Steve was also relentless in his focus on the consumer experience. He hated conceptual presentations and always zoomed right into the practical “what does the consumer do” or “what does the ad say.”
Beheshti: What don’t people fully appreciate about Steve as a leader, an innovator, a visionary?
Slade: Steve looked at things in a very aspirational way. A classic example was when he initially described the iPhone as “getting rid of all those buttons” you’d find on a Blackberry phone. Later he changed his phrasing to “I don’t want to get rid of the buttons, I want to move them around”—like he was some kind of a magician. That’s aspirational.
Beheshti: What is the most helpful criticism you received from Steve?
Slade: Steve would help me get out of analysis paralysis. He didn’t really care about market forces or market share of competitors. He cared about what he could get accomplished.
Beheshti: What was Steve’s management style like?
Slade: Steve was a strange mixture of a control freak and a random actor. If he cared about something, he would drive everyone crazy and eventually take over the entire process. If he didn’t care as much, he’d ignore the issue and then complain about it if it wasn’t solved to his satisfaction. He truly believed that he could do everything better than just about anyone else. However, this was probably not true.
Beheshti: What do you say to entrepreneurs who try to imitate Steve’s management style?
Slade: Capturing the brash/asshole side of Steve is easy. However, Steve was a genius. He had great taste, he worked his ass off, and he cared passionately. If you’re not a genius, don’t try to imitate Steve. You’ll just end up acting like an asshole.
Beheshti: What do you think the older Steve would tell the younger Steve?
Slade: I think as he matured and raised more children and got an amazing second chance at Apple he learned from some of his mistakes. He learned to rely on really good people a little more which is the only way to get big things done.
“Steve’s dedication to his craft was an inspiration to everyone. He was a rare gem. A little crazy, but very, very inspiring.” Steve’s innovations and achievements continue to impact industries, people, and lifestyles worldwide. His spirit lives on.
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Published on Oct. 5, 2018
Click here to read the article of Forbes.com