In 1999, I think right after the iMac came out in a range of colors, I happened to sit in on an internal meeting at Apple, one in a large theater filled with employees. Steve Jobs came out and the whole theater burst into applause, and the clapping went on for minutes, with people standing and cheering. The success of the iMac was just becoming evident – the first act of Steve’s big return, leading from there to what Apple is now.
Steve let the applause go on for a little bit, then, with much effort, settled down the crowd. When things got quiet, the first thing he said was: “That’s an awful lot of applause considering that you guys are the ones who do all the work.”
Everyone leapt to their feet and applauded again for several minutes more, this time with Steve egging them on, applauding each other as a team.
That moment has since defined what I think about as leadership. I’d have to think that however wistful Steve is about leaving Apple today, there must be some part of him looking at the incredible company he’s built, and thinking to himself about today’s news, that’s a lot of applause considering that you’re the ones who do the work. He’d be right to say that, but he’s the leader, and I have always admired that more than any other quality for which he’s praised.
¨¿Quien es mas modesto? ¿El cientifico que mira al universo con una mente abierta y acepta lo que sea que este tenga que enseñarnos, o alguien que dice que todo en este libro (la biblia) debe ser considerado una verdad literal y nunca cuestionar la capacidad de error de todos los humanos involucrados en su escritura?
”Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever it has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved?”
Vic Gundotra is a Senior VP at Google where he works on social business initiatives and mobile applications. In a post on Google+, Gundotra relays a charming story about one of his many interactions with Jobs.
Gundotra in early January was at a religious service when he got a call from an unknown number. He ignored the call, but when he checked the resulting message it was from Steve Jobs. The message said, “Vic, can you call me at home? I have something urgent to discuss.”
So Gundotra called Jobs back and this is what went down.
“Hey Steve - this is Vic”, I said. “I’m sorry I didn’t answer your call earlier. I was in religious services, and the caller ID said unknown, so I didn’t pick up”.
Steve laughed. He said, “Vic, unless the Caller ID said ‘GOD’, you should never pick up during services”.
I laughed nervously. After all, while it was customary for Steve to call during the week upset about something, it was unusual for him to call me on Sunday and ask me to call his home. I wondered what was so important?
“So Vic, we have an urgent issue, one that I need addressed right away. I’ve already assigned someone from my team to help you, and I hope you can fix this tomorrow” said Steve.
“I’ve been looking at the Google logo on the iPhone and I’m not happy with the icon. The second O in Google doesn’t have the right yellow gradient. It’s just wrong and I’m going to have Greg fix it tomorrow. Is that okay with you?”
Of course this was okay with me. A few minutes later on that Sunday I received an email from Steve with the subject “Icon Ambulance”. The email directed me to work with Greg Christie to fix the icon.
As a quick point of interest, Gregory Christie is the Director of Human Interface at Apple with a number of GUI patents to his credit, among others.
Gundotra closes with the lessons imported from that unexpected phone call on an otherwise uneventful Sunday in 2008.
But in the end, when I think about leadership, passion and attention to detail, I think back to the call I received from Steve Jobs on a Sunday morning in January. It was a lesson I’ll never forget. CEOs should care about details. Even shades of yellow. On a Sunday.
To one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever met, my prayers and hopes are with you Steve.