Top critical review
Leadership? - Anecdotal at best.
on April 4, 2014
The premise of this books seems to be that if someone is successful and in a position of power they are a leader. As far as I can tell that is how the author defines leadership but there are literally hundreds of definitions of leadership. In fact Burns distinguished between power wielders, transformational and transactional leadership. This book makes it difficult to see how Jobs was anything more than a power wielder as the relationship between him and his followers is limited to what Jobs knew and apparently told his followers. I am not saying Jobs was not a good leader, just that this book does little in the way of describing actual leadership.
The author talks a lot about what Jobs did and how he thought but rarely how he actually worked with others. The story seems to be that Jobs did and thought everything. Success stemmed from that, not that he led. Perhaps he was a genius but does genius mean leadership? If you are simply telling everyone else what is correct and know it all then is that leadership? Perhaps the grade school kind of leadership where there was one person in front and everyone followed along. The more modern tale of leadership is more complex and has to do with inspiration, engendering teamwork, empowering etc.
The author tells of how Jobs failed to listen to experts in the medical field and how it may have cost him his life. The lesson - apparently to trust your own judgement only in your field. Good leaders will trust others judgments even in their own field apparently Jobs did not but that is not much of a recipe for other leaders. Leaders do not imagine themselves to be the be all and end all in any field and I imagine that Jobs had a lot of help with a lot of good people at Apple. That does not take away from what Jobs did but rather says how this is not really about leadership unless they are using a different definition of leadership than any I have studied. It is really more of a biography of success and even then the conclusions are tenuous at best.
"Wait for nothing" Really?
"Nothing good comes from playing nice." Maybe happiness? Why can't you compete and play nice? Do all successful people not play nice and do all people who play nice fail. Cause and effect seems lacking and there certainly is no explanation for how this causes success. Instead the claim is that Jobs did it so it must be the cause. Does not seem helpful to other leaders or those studying leadership.
"Put yourself first and the customer second" - doesn't that just make you the customer? Nothing wrong with it but if you are creating it for yourself then you and those like you are the customer. After that it is all about marketing and convincing others they need what was created for you. Now Apple obviously created a lot of products many of us wanted (I am an Apple person). However the notion that this is some sort of tenet is absurd. How many people have failed doing that? I can think of quite a few they just aren't famous because they were their only customer. I am being a bit facetious here but the point is it is a ridiculous tenet. Perhaps it suggests that if you are like many other people you should design for yourself:).
Every chapter is like the previous paragraphs. They attribute a characteristic to Jobs and suggest that means it can be attributed to leadership and success. The problem is there is absolutely no cover for such statements. Many people have not done these things and been successful and many have done these things and failed spectacularly. There is no cause and effect no matter how good it sounds.
All in all the book misses the mark. This review has nothing to do with Jobs or his success. He may have been a good leader although other books I have read indicate he was often abrasive and even abusive so perhaps not (then again so was Gandhi). Skip this book unless you want to read some interesting things about Jobs. Just realize it is just story and there is nothing to learn as far as leadership or success.