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.
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?”