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Jan’s Corner: On Apples and meaningful business

The co-founder and former CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs passed away last week and millions of people around the world remembered him, experiencing, what I can see as, a mixture of sadness and gratitude.

Yes, an amazing human being and business pioneer died of terminal illness. However, it doesn’t happen very often that the world remembers or even mourns a business leader. Typically, CEOs, regardless of their business accomplishments, are usually remembered by a close community of people from their private and business life, and maybe by a short media tribute summarising their lives, but not by an army of strangers – customers and fans from wider society – from countries they have never been to.

Steve didn’t just stand behind the rise of a formidable hi-tech company, but left a much more palpable legacy which has outgrown from his passion for making amazing and elegant technology available to everyone and dedication to always create something beautiful and great.

Many people have heard his quote in Wall Street Journal that “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me… Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”

Steve Jobs was an inspiring example of someone who focused on the “right” things in business and allowed the rest – including the financials – to ensue. Above all, he knew Why he was in business and Why he focused on computing.

That’s how he inspired people and led his companies and his teams. For instance, in the 80‘s he recruited a top executive John Sculley from Pepsi to be Apple’s CEO by famously asking him: “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world?”

It is obvious that Steve was a mortal human like you and I, but what really intrigues me is what made the difference. What would happen if we brought the same level of focus to the businesses we manage and people we lead?

What if we ongoingly asked – regardless of our position or formal responsibility:

:: Why are we really in business?

:: Why are we really in this particular business?

:: What are we committed to bring to the world that is wonderful, valuable and lasting (and not just a fair exchange)?

:: Is our company an exciting and rewarding place to come to every day? If not as much as we like, what can we create to make it the wonderful place it deserves to be?

:: How are we changing the world for the better?

Ponder these, and you may be surprised what opens up. I certainly was.

And just one more thing.

Steve Jobs wasn’t perfect, actually far from it. But he was authentic and that’s what I’d say made the difference. Don’t check out who you are at your office entrance door. Rather allow yourself to be yourself at work. Bring your real self to the table with both your strengths and your weaknesses… and allow the same privilege to everyone else on your team and in your company. It may be risky but without it you can hardly expect that something really great and wonderful will happen.

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