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3.8 out of 5 stars
The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a New Generation
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
OK, I'll admit it. I am a sucker for anyone who can decipher or decode Steve Jobs. After all, the guy is a repeat Icarus. He has flown too close to the sun not once, not twice, but at least three times and every time has come out better than before. The effect he's had on Apple upon his return has been nothing short of a resurrection followed by a seating at the right hand of the Father.

Jobs is an interesting, mercurial creature, and I often wonder if he is simply one of a kind, a kind of idiot savant who understands how to tap into our wants and needs, and who has an almost messianic vision that we need to follow. Sometimes I suspect that books about him are probably best read to illuminate how different we are from Steve rather than how we can become more like Steve.

I've read several books about Jobs, but in many regards The Steve Jobs Way is probably the best. The subtitle for the book is iLeadership for a New Generation, which is a bit unfortunate, for reasons I've just presented above (I'm not sure we can easily emulate Jobs) and for the hackneyed use of the "i". But Jay Elliott, who was present at the beginning, knows Jobs probably as well as anyone, and gives insights that few can do from the outside looking in. And if the first few pages where Elliott describes how he first got the job with Jobs doesn't hook you, then really nothing will.

Here's the plain, unvarnished truth about what Elliot has to say: Steve Jobs is unlike just about everyone you'll ever meet. After founding Apple and wowing a bunch of venture capitalists and business people, Jobs had visions of a different kind of computer and become a disruption in his own company, and was eventually thrust out (first Icarus moment). Using the funds he received from his stock sale, he purchased Pixar and developed the NexT computer. For a man who is supposedly a marketing genius, he misunderstood Pixar and targeted a tiny university market with a computer that was far too capable and expensive. Fortunately, due to his inability to recognize his failures, he stuck around and funded both long enough for the world to catch up to his technologies. Both Pixar and NexT reached Icarus points of their own, and Jobs had the ability to reach deep into his own pockets to keep them float.

Jobs returned to Apple as an "advisor" to Gil Amelio and supplanted Amelio very shortly afterward. Amelio must have been the only person on the planet who didn't foresee this outcome. Jobs, having learned his lessons from his first stint at Apple and his near failures and spectacular successes with Pixar, determined to trust his vision and turn Apple into a customer experience company that happens to make electronics. And that's where we are today.

The Steve Jobs Way is mostly a biography about Jobs, which I've encapsulated above. Along the way Elliot points out the successes (in great detail) and the failures (in not so much detail). Elliot points out the things we should learn from Jobs, like his passion, his vision, his obsession with detail, his ability to create and share a vision and so forth. Frankly, most of us regular humans would find it hard to mimic Jobs in even one of these attributes, much less pretend to match Jobs in all of these attributes. Layer on top Jobs' first win at Apple which gave him deep pockets and staying power, and very few people can touch his success.

What strikes me most about the short biography is how much I think Jobs learned from his own near failures that he now applies at Apple, including shortening the product offerings, focusing on customer experience and creating a mystique around the Apple brand and Apple products. Jobs knows, and I think increasingly Apple knows, that the expectations are now so high for Apple that one stumble could seriously damage the firm, so every new product must meet Jobs' vision and expectations, which will hopefully outstrip the expectations and needs of the customer base. Frankly, Jobs is in a competitive race by himself. Every other computer and electronics manufacturer has ceded the high ground to Jobs and Apple and are merely hoping they make mistakes.

While it probably won't be a surprise when I tell you this, perhaps the greatest impact Jobs has with Apple is that he is the de facto product manager for the iPad, and the iPod and the iPhone. I can think of no other significant consumer electronics manufacturer where the CEO is so involved in the design and development of the core products. It is his vision and involvement and his passion for the product and the product features and attributes that differentiates Apple.

Some books are proscriptive, they tell you what to learn and what to do based on examples. Some books are descriptive, they tell you a story or describe an event. This is a book that seems to suggest it is a proscriptive book, but ultimately it is a descriptive book. However, it is a great read and perhaps one of the best I've seen about Jobs and what makes him tick. I'm just not sure whether to wish for more Jobs or to acknowledge that only one can exist at a time.

Cross posted from my Innovate on Purpose blog
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52 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2011
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Not worth the money and time to read this book.

I am an Apple enthusiast and I don't mind reading books that are, let's say, overly in favor of the company and its products. But this book is so overly positive and diplomatic, avoiding any kind of controversial issue, that it's simply not worth reading.

For example Jay Elliots "analysis" of the smartphone market consists in an anecdote of a friend who bought a Motorola Droid that his friend didn't like. And he claims Windows Phone 7 is a total failure, because it does not run Windows Software (Windows Mobile did neither). Therefore, Jay Elliot concludes, the iPhone must the clear winner. It hurts to read this.

Also, he defends the iPhone 4's antennagate issue by explaining that the overlord Steve Jobs was on medical leave during its design and had handed responsibility to some other VP during this time. Obviously, the responible person had been laid off after the incident. What kind of explanation is that? And isn't that just a weakness in Apple's company structure, that everything has to go through Steve's approval process? These are the kind of questions I would like to have seen answered!

The first chapters of the book are a memos of people the author met during his career at Apple. He must have gone through his address book and decided to write a small chapter on every person he met. Obviously, every person was a genius and the best at his field, which is fine, but becomes rather boring to read after a while: "Person X was hired to do Y. Person X is the best on his field. Apple only hires the best people".

Steve Job's secret of success? He's a perfectionist and loves his products -- things I definitely would not have known without reading this book (thank you, Mr. Elliot). The last chapter promises to explain how the "Steve Jobs" leadership style can be adopted to other companies, but fails miserably doing so. The chapter basically contains a couple of anecdotes of a company he founded (which failed), and another startup he is involved in (Nuvel Inc.) doing some sort of acceleration technology (which sounds awfully similar to Google's failed "Google Web Accelerator" product. Good luck with that).

What I really want to know from this book: Is Steve Job's leadership style embedded into the company enough that the company can function even in Steve Job's absence (the keyword here is the "Apple University")? With his medical history, this question becomes vital as ever. During the Scully years (and Steve's absence from the company), Apple almost went bankrupt. But what happens if Steve leaves Apple for good?

The book also fails to mention Jay Elliot's duration of employment. All the current topics are clearly described from an outsider perspective, without any additional insight one would expect from such a book.

Don't buy this book. I suggest you to read "Inside Apple -- From Steve Jobs down to the janitor" from Adam Lashinsky instead. It's only a magazine article (available on the Kindle store for $0.99), but gives you so much more information on Apples organizational structure, Steve's leadership style -- everything this books promises to deliver, but fails to do.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I chatted with author Jay Elliot before reading his book. After reading it, I see that Steve Jobs powerfully impacted his former Sr. V.P. You can find my interview with Jay on the Leadership Freak blog.

"The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a New Generation," is several books in one.

It's the personal story of staggering success, painful failure, persistent struggle and white hot passion for products. Sometimes it reads like a documentary, at others a soap-opera. In my opinion, Jay presents Steve Jobs as a man of two extremes with no middle. He is an over the top visionary with an obsessive compulsion for every imaginable detail.

Second, it's a brief, selective history of Apple with references to NeXT and Pixar.

Ultimately, it's an insider's explanation of innovative, sometimes excessive, leadership/management practices that propelled Steve Jobs to global celebrity. More than that, practices that enabled Steve to change the way people work, play, consume, and communicate.

iLeadership encompasses four topic areas: product, talent, organization, and marketing. I'll touch on the first two here.

Product

Steve's leadership is motivated by an unquenchable desire to create the simplest, most elegantly functional product that meets customer need. "Every opportunity starts with an unmet need." Beyond that, Steve awakened customers to products and features they didn't even know they needed.

Passion for product, in some cases translates into becoming the product. Jay recounts how Steve became the product in order to energize innovation. His approach impacted everything from packaging to user experience.

Talent

I found the talent section most interesting and applicable. Steve made people feel it was a privilege to sell out to the product.

You can be like Steve Jobs if you:

1. Schedule three or four product-focused retreats per year
2. Always look for specifics. Don't accept generalities.
3. Reject smoke-blowers and incompetence.
4. Frequently pause and celebrate.
5. Let best ideas rather than organizational structure controls meetings.
6. Create Stimulating offices that include social gathering places.
7. Hold weekly product review meetings.

There's more to the book but I'll leave that to you to uncover.

I enjoyed the read and recommend it to several audiences: leaders,managers, techno geeks, Apple fans, and those interested in reading about a leader that changed our world through creative technology related products.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
If you like Apple products, admire Steve Jobs, or enjoy "think out of the box" approaches to business, you'll enjoy this book. You'll learn something about Jobs and how he approaches problem solving. But most of all you'll learn how he is consistently a step ahead of everybody else at imagining the future, and then he figures out how to capitalize on that. It's impressive. Perhaps a bit too fawning at times, but that's okay ... Jobs has earned a lot of praise.

You shouldn't expect great leadership insights from this book. Yes, it does cover some curious leadership principals that might be applicable...but for the most part, Jobs is a one of a kind, and attempting to copy him is going to be way over most of our heads. I think a smarter approach with this book is to appreciate his brilliance and vision.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book feels like a watered down, reheated version of Guy Kawasaki's The MacIntosh Way. Guy's book, published in 1990, is bursting with passion, ending each chapter with memorable ways to be a pirate and a provocateur. It's full of little details that make you smile, such as the how the Mac team considered installing a washing machine so they'd never have to go home.

By comparison, Elliot's book is as dull to read as a HBS case study. It isn't helped by the fact that he waited 20 years to cash in with his retelling of events--with the help of a co-author. Buying this book won't inspire you to start a tech company or launch that million-dollar iphone app.

Remember that this book is from the guy responsible for operational things including "HR, Facilities, Real Estate."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Having read a few books on Apple and Steve Jobs, I was pleasantly surprised with this one: different perspective and a dozen interesting insights into the daily life of Apple as a company. Unlike many other authors who have written on the same topic, Jay Elliot had the opportunity to work alongside Steve Jobs and offers a different, and a much "softer" picture of Steve Jobs. "The Steve Jobs Way" shows that like anybody else Steve Jobs learned the skills on the job, made many mistakes along the way, and is subject to all the same follies as you and I are.

Admittedly, there were spots in the book where the author's writing plainly contradicted other reports (such as Woz's own biography, and other Steve Jobs and Apple biographies) - in other words, the distortion field is there, so be careful. Having said that, the author does offer a number of interesting insights into how Apple operated in the early years, and the actual product design process and principles that have driven many of the innovations coming from Apple.

This is a great read for any entrepreneur - lots of great lessons that will make you reflect on your own business. Highly recommend it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I just heard that Steve Jobs passed away. He was a great visionary.

This book does a good job outlining many of the core values by which Steve lived and led his company. By telling about Steve and Apple in this historical sense, rather than just a cross cut at the values, you really get an insight into the personal and business challenges that Steve and Apple went through during his tenure.

For me, the core strength of the book is that the author was there, with Steve, for many of the events being talked about. To get an insiders view into say why the Canon execs have their eyes closed during Steve's talk, and how Steve got tipped off this was good (they were listening intently) is an example of the kind of 'insider information' that you have to have in order to get to know someone. Otherwise you just have tabloid headlines which is what I hear is in this book iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business.

Next I'm looking forward to reading Steve Jobs.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Jay Elliot's "The Steve Jobs Way" is a weak attempt to capitalize on Steve Jobs' recent death. He provides very little of value; Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" towers over Elliot's book. Nonetheless, his book does contain a few items worth noting.

The first is a quote from Jean-Louis Gasse, formerly at Apple - brought in to replace Jobs. 'Democracies don't make great products - you need a competent tyrant.'

The second is Elliot's reporting that Jobs believed that most don't have what it takes to be an entrepreneur or product manager - passion about the idea or product.

The third is that Jobs emphasized simplicity - he aimed at users not needing a user manual.

On the downside, Apple products were repeatedly introduced late because of Jobs' non-stop meddling to pursue perfection. Nor was Jobs judgment flawless - the Mac suffered from his directing that it not have a fan (overheating and frequent failures resulted), small memory (128 K), lacking a hard drive, relatively high price, and his building a $20 million automated assembly plant (Wanted complete control) instead of contracting out that function. NeXT was even worse - very overpriced; only the software developed for it made the company valuable and bought Jobs re-entry to Apple.

Elliot emphasizes battling between Jobs and Scully over product vs. functional focus, with Scully favoring the latter. Certainly Apple became very successful upon Jobs' return and insistence on a product focus - on the other hand, there are numerous examples elsewhere of firms drowning in excessive costs and lack of accountability associated with that same organizational model. Where to draw the line - Elliot doesn't even recognize the problem. Similarly with vertical integration, and Jobs' objections to the use of focus groups.

Pixar became a phenomenal success and made Jobs a billionaire - not however, because of anything Jobs himself did, but rather the extreme genius and drive of one of its founders, Edwin Catmull, who then hired John Lasseter. The firm's computer was what attracted Jobs - however, it never was very successful and eventually was sold off.

As for how Jobs transformed Apple with its entry into the music, cell phone, etc. market - Elliot has almost nothing to contribute.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I finished the book within 2 days and able to grasp what it is like working at Apple... and how Steve Jobs revolutionize the company.

However, i find it to be too light in content.

Am looking forward to the full biography of Steve Jobs which is due to be released in few weeks time.

- Ian Cheow
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2011
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
It's more of a love letter to SJ rather than a biography or balanced account of what happened, painting Jobs as a genius and visionary, using lots of superlatives and underlying Apple's superiority at every step.

Entertaining read nonetheless.
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