October 11, 2015

Steve Jobs – A Transformational Leader

Steven Jobs resignation from the CEO position at Apple has given all of us a moment to reflect on how profoundly, as reporter Walt Mossberg observed in the Thursday, August 25, 2011, issue of The Wall Street Journal, in a piece entitled “Job’s Legacy: Changing How We Live.” We Jobs was transformational in his work with Pixar animation and made Apple Computer one of the most valuable companies in the world, I will focus on what he accomplished at Apple Computer as a creator of great products and services.

Today, I have an I-Mac desktop computer, as does my wife, a MacBook Air laptop, as do my sons and my daughter, an I-Phone, as does my wife, and an I-Pod, as do every member of my family. My wife even has an I-Pad, so she can read her emails more easily.

I prepared this blog, along with most others, on my MacBook Air, which is my work computer, since I take it everywhere. It holds my PowerPoint presentations as well, and my Kindle software that enables me to read books anywhere I take my computer.

There are many things about the Apple technologies I do not like. There is an excessive drain on the batteries for the phone and the laptop. The address books and calendars among my laptop, desktop, and I-Phone, do not properly synchronize, in spite of what Apple has advertised. The touch screen on the I-Phone is unresponsive, when I am hot and sweaty on a hot, sunny day.

Nevertheless, Apple Computer, under Steven Jobs, has profoundly changed many lives, including mine, for the better, as Mossberg has pointed out. The I-Pod was the first Apple product I acquired. It amazes me to this day that I can have the equivalent of five old-time jukeboxes worth of music of my choice anywhere I take this tiny I-Pod, and that I can dock it in a little holder at home and have it play anywhere in the house. Jobs revolutionized music by enabling people to get individual songs of their choice from an online retail store legally, without buying albums and without having to search several retail outlets. The old 45 records are the closest comparison to the I-Pod, since one could buy his or her favorite song individually, but even there, the purchaser also had to buy a song on the flip side of the record, and had to shop at retail stores to get the records.

The MacBook Air is a lightweight device of excellent quality, but, more importantly, it is supported by an excellent service organization that, for a flat annual fee, is able to deliver great telephone and in-store support with scheduled appointments or emergency support. The Apple service capability, more than the quality of the computers and software, is what caused me to switch from a PC to a MacBook when I left Pitney Bowes.

The I-Phone has changed my life in many ways. The instant access to e-mails, to a full address book, and to a calendar enable me to do business anywhere. The location service software has enabled me to find my way around places when walking, as well as driving, because of its GPS features. It has replaced my clock radio and the hotel wake-up call as my alarm clock. It has also become my camera and my snapshot album. It enables me to keep track of major news and sports items, and to look up information anywhere I can get on the Internet. It will become extremely important as a repository for health records once clinicians, hospitals, and labs become as automated as pharmacies.

When I was in a rural part of Italy this summer in which my cell phone service and my Internet coverage was spotty, I was reminded of how we now take for granted relative to Jobs’ contribution to our lives. As I see stories about the uprisings in the Arab countries and in other parts of the world, I became even more appreciative of the degree to which the handheld devices Jobs invented put so much power in the hands of individuals that he has changed political systems and how people get elected and govern.

There are only a few people who leave that kind of imprint during their lives. It is unfortunate that his health does not enable him to continue as CEO, but I hope that he finds the energy to keep contributing to our society and transforming it for the better.