Book Review of “The Steve Jobs way, iLeadership for the
new generation" By Dinesh Chandrasekar, Hitachi Consulting GDC
Steve Jobs is as much an icon of the information age as the iMacs, iPods, iPads and iPhones that his
company has been launching ever so frequently in recent years. He is also a controversial entrepreneur and
both authorized and unauthorized biographies of the Buddhist business magnate and inventor are aplenty.
But Jay Elliot, author of The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a new generation, is perhaps one of the
closest associates of the founder and CEO of one of the most outstanding companies in history to have
written a book on him. Mr. Elliot, who worked with Mr. Jobs as senior vice-president of Apple, leverages his
‘deep insider perspective’ of his boss’s ‘singular iLeadership style', encompassing four major principles:
product, talent, organisation and marketing.
The author first met his future boss, ‘the hippie-looking, twenty something in jeans and sneakers’ in the
waiting area of a restaurant, days after chucking his job with Intel. “But we quickly discovered a shared
passion for computers,” says Mr. Elliot. “The guy was a fire-eater, bursting with energy, lighting up at the
idea that I had held key positions in technology but had left IBM when I found them slow to accept new
ideas.” The book is full of interesting anecdotes relating to Mr. Jobs, his interactions with his colleagues,
the big fights he had with some top executives, including John Sculley, the former PepsiCo president, who
replaced him as the CEO following a painful power struggle in the mid- 1980s. But the ‘Sculley era’ saw the
decline of Apple, leading one international magazine to label Mr. Sculley as “the 14th worst American CEO
of all time”.
Mr. Elliot recalls an Apple worldwide sales meet at a hotel on Waikiki beach in Hawaii after the Macintosh
launch. “The event was a stunning success, but it didn’t go unnoticed that John and Steve seemed to have
spent almost their entire time at the conference without speaking to each other,” he writes. Mr. Jobs,
according to the author, was frustrated that he could not convince Mr. Sculley that his plans — of, for
instance, hiring a new in-house sales force of 2,500 people to sell the Macintosh to businesses —were
taking Apple in the wrong direction. “At the dinner the first night in Hawaii, the two had a big blow-up; it
was like a public announcement that they were no longer the joined-at-the-hip buddies they had been in
the early months after John’s arrival.” For the fans of this innovative entrepreneur, the book has a lot of
interesting details about the man who continues to remain an enigma. Days before the launch of the Mac,
Mr. Jobs walked in one day for a demo and wasn’t happy with the noise that the fan generated. Personal
computers, in those early days, had fans which made a lot of noise. But the Apple boss wanted the
Macintosh to be completely silent. The entire organisation, including engineers and technologists disagreed
with him, but Mr. Jobs insisted the Mac would not be launched if it was noisy. The launch was delayed by
five months, as the engineers went back and redesigned the Mac, ensuring that it was silent. Mr. Jobs had
been right in principle, but he learnt a valuable lesson: Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right, but
there are times when you have to weigh the benefit of getting it right against the cost of being late to the
market. Mr. Elliot notes that Mr. Jobs is one of those people who keep reinventing themselves. It is not that
the Apple CEO himself changed, but his vision had changed over the years. For instance, while the Mac was
‘first-generation Steve’, and other products that followed before the iPhone and the iPad also reflected Mr.
Jobs as the creator of products that caught the public imagination, today his focus is on content. The Apple
CEO has envisioned a world in which content is king and the Apple of the future will become a company
that puts devices that deliver content in the hands of consumers. For a man who has been described as
“Harvard’s most successful dropout,” Mr. Jobs has remade three industries and transformed the way we
create, consume and communicate with each other. The author shares the lessons that come out of Mr.
Jobs’ intuitive approach to show how the creative and technological brilliance of iLeadership can be utilized
to drive breakthroughs in any organisation, irrespective of size.
One such instance is the way Steve Jobs always believes in hiring the best or the ‘A’ people, as he calls
them. For the Apple boss, an employee’s true worth is his talent and passion, not necessarily the
educational and technical qualifications. Not surprising for someone who dropped out of college in pursuit
of his passion. The fast-paced book reveals the ‘real’ Steve Jobs, who has over the past three decades