The skill that made Steve Jobs brilliant
But it’s a rather common interpersonal skill that has made him a “brilliant” business leader, according to the former Apple CEO. Jean Sculley.
This skill? The ability to listen.
Sculley, who served as Apple’s CEO for a decade from 1983 to 1993, said CNBC do it this ability did not come naturally to Jobs. On the contrary, it took 12 years and a controversial departure from Apple to perfect it.
Jobs resigned from Apple in 1985, aged 27, following a clash with Sculley (a former ally) and members of Apple’s board of directors over the strategic direction of the company.
Over the next 12 years, Jobs founded another computer software company, NeXT, before returning to Apple in 1997.
When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 after buying NeXT, he was a “different person,” said Sculley, who previously ran Pepsi.
He described Jobs’ two tenures at Apple as Jobs 1.0 and Jobs 2.0.
Jobs 1.0 was characterized by unwavering ambition, but Jobs 2.0 was more mature and had a greater willingness to listen to others, Sculley said.
“Steve was brilliant at seeing where the world would be in 20 years. He was so charismatic that he convinced himself, as much as he convinced others, that he was always right,” Sculley said of of Jobs 1.0.
“But young Steve Jobs wasn’t as good a listener as the Steve Jobs who came back years later,” he continued, noting that it opened him up to new ways of thinking.
“His life experiences between 1.0 and 2.0 were obviously hugely influential.”
In the years after Jobs returned to Apple, he was seen as largely responsible for reviving the company from the brink of bankruptcy.
Today, under the direction of Tim Cookwhich replaced Jobs as CEO shortly before his death in 2011, Apple is the world’s second-largest public company by market capitalization.
Recently, Sculley said he met with Microsoft Chairman John Thompson and asked him how he explained Nadella’s success, to which Thompson replied, “He’s a great listener and he’s open-minded.”
“It’s that openness and willingness to listen,” said Sculley, who said Nadella saved businesses when they “lost their way.”
“It really made a huge difference at Microsoft.”
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