There are many who believe Steve Jobs was a creative genius. I think it would be more accurate to say he was a genius who loved creativity.

Ken Segall in Insanely Simple: The Obsession that Drives Apple’s Success

I’ve been reading Ken’s book for the past few days and this statement is the most striking observation so far. It’s striking because it’s unexpected and true. Ken’s point is that Jobs may have been creative, but the characteristic that made him great was his relentless defense of creativity.

Creativity blossoms in environments of mercilessly small teams, honest/direct/brutal feedback, and “no compromises” attitudes. I haven’t worked at Apple, but I get the sense from those who have that this was largely the case.  Jobs greatest strength may have been clearing the way for creative people to achieve their potential.

Applied more generally, this defense of creativity is an ideal that all leaders should strive to achieve: enabling teams to achieve greatness.

In short, CEOs should knock down obstacles for their teams.   Practically speaking this means deploying small teams on projects and constraining meeting sizes; empowering/trusting these small teams to make bold strides; hiring well; providing clear direction and honest feedback – ultimately enabling faster iteration cycles for better results.

The lesson applies to leaders at every level: tech leads, engineering managers, general managers, founders and VCs. It’s what we should all think when we wake up in the morning. “How am I going to enable greatness today?”


5 thoughts on “How am I going to enable greatness today?

  1. The second challenge is not to upset and stunt creativity even when you need to shut something down that the creatives are excited about but for whatever reason cannot be supported by your company.

  2. Hi, great post.Creativity and Productivity knows many obstacles not the least is the ‘money machine’…investors want and demand a return on investment. The creatives, as it were, must design and provide something that the public needs and is willing to spend money on. It seems that this is frustrating but somehow it works itself out as we are not at a loss for something new to engage our senses almost on a daily basis!
    Alice Wheaton

    • It’s all a balance: focusing creativity on the right problems. By respecting the creative process and putting in tension with business objectives, Steve showed how a great company could move forward. Something to aspire to!

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