It is impossible to speak or teach about leadership without using Steven Jobs as an example of many things. There are plenty of retrospectives on Jobs life being published today, on the anniversary of his death, but for me the thing that still stands out for the unique man that he was is his vision.
In this recently released recording of a speech from 1983 given by Steve Jobs at the International Design Conference, you can hear him accurately predict the future of computers and more importantly the use of computers by the common person. In this speech, he essentially talks about the iPhone, computer networking and unbelievably comes very close to describing the current day iPad. By the way, the link above will take you to the full one hour speech rather than the snippet that is most easily found on the internet today. It’s worth listening to the whole thing. (There’s also a moving tribute by Tim Cook today on Apple’s homepage)
The important things for leaders of all stripes to think about is that Jobs was not only visionary. Many leaders have been visionary. But he then put his life work into making his vision a reality. You can say what you want about his style, his ego, his fallibility…all aspects of being a mere mortal. But what he did, and what few of us do, is not only articulate a vision but then refuse to wait for somebody else to invent it. When he talked about the world of the future, he recognized…and intended that…he would take an active role in creating that world.
Too many times we have a vision that represents a desire more than a driving purpose. This is trying to read tea leaves or speculating in a way that we hope things turn out. Leaders who have both the ability to envision the future, and the willingness to make that future happen, are unique and valuable indeed.