They All Want to Be Steve Jobs

Last night, MR. HECC and I went out for a date night featuring deliciously overpriced bison burgers from The Counter and a movie. Well, he wanted to see James Bond but given we can’t stand other people in movie theaters sitting near us and it was opening night, we opted for the less popular and has-been-out-for-a-while Steve Jobs flick.

I haven’t seen the handful of other Steve Jobs movies that have come out since his passing, but this one focused on his life story from the first Mac to the launch of the iMac. The story followed his professional path and personal life in a series of too-long dialogue scenes which all took place in the hour leading up to a major launch conference or in flashbacks. This fit a lot of story into a short amount of time but wasn’t exactly the most compelling to watch. Despite that, it did provide a reminder of the live of one Steve Jobs, who, without his existence, I wouldn’t be writing on this MacBook Air, wouldn’t be texting friends and family on my iPhone or reading non-fiction on my iPad. Love him or hate him, the man changed the world of consumer computing, music, and phones.

Steve Jobs is known as being an asshole, but one people loved to follow – a fearless cult leader who cared only about being true to himself and his vision. I’ve worked for a lot of CEOs who I believe would be trying to “be like Jobs.” They get the asshole part down but their intuition in business isn’t quite so keen. This is definitely a certain style of leadership which only works should your intuition be right most of the time. Even Jobs was wrong for a long time. He got fired from Apple. He was hired back because in the long run instinct and understanding what customers want – not what they THINK they want – is the most coveted talent known to business, even beyond top engineering chops.

There are parts of Steve Jobs’ personality that I recognize in myself. I constantly get chided over my focus on details, on making things absolutely perfect. But, unlike Jobs, it’s my job to make the things perfect too. Jobs was an ideas man and people loved him for it. They saw that brilliance and the value he brought and eventually he got it right. Now Apple stock is up hundreds upon hundreds of dollars. Jobs brought Apple back from the dead and said fuck you to anyone who didn’t believe in what he knew was right.

Of course, I don’t say “fuck you” to anyone. Unfortunately I have that part of my psyche which tries to please everyone. It’s pretty standard for females and I have it really bad due to a father who constantly told me all my ideas were wrong, and who would aggressively debate me should I decide I disagreed with his judgement. My mother was not allowed her own opinion, so I was taught very clearly that women should not have a voice. Women should be obedient. I didn’t have a brother so I never experienced that family dynamic (would have been interesting to see how my father treated a boy child) — but ultimately that was my life. My father certainly didn’t believe in “thinking different.”

I’m not my father, you say. I’m a grown-ass woman. I’m going to be 32 years old this month (fucking A) and I need to just stop being influenced by my past and think about my future. Be a leader. Be strong. Be a – man?

Here I am, approaching two new business opportunities. The leadership team of one (if you’ve been following – this is the larger, 300 person company) has one woman on it. The 15-person startup has 2 women in it, which, actually, compared to the ratio I believe exists at the larger company, is probably, percentage-wise, more women then at the bigger firm. I’m not 100% sure about that. Maybe it’s around the same. In the smaller company, I’d be the first female on the non-official leadership team.

This is nothing new. Even my last company which was heavily female the leadership team was all dudes plus one token women. This is life in Silicon Valley. Men can get away with being Steve Jobs – or faking to be Steve Jobs until finally someone realizes they aren’t. Somehow these men are so confident that they manage to go on to other roles even after major failures. They wear their failures proudly and walk on to the next opportunity.

Women leaders are far and few between in my life. While I have a few male mentors, it’s not the same. Many men who have been my peers had much closer ties with the male leaders at companies. They’d go out to drink with them on the regular, not just once to have a serious “mentor” chat. It was easy for them to call up their now friend to explore life’s many professional possibilities. The one female VP I know fairly well gets mad at me when I try to talk about work. I’ve learned to stop asking those questions.

I wish I could be more like Steve Jobs. Not in terms of being an asshole and horrible parent, but in terms of not giving a shit what other people think. How beautiful would that be? When it comes to opinions, everyone has one, but no one is actually right – so I might as well stand behind mine.

When I’m up in front of a room inspiring people, sharing my passion for great user experiences and products, I’m at my best. When I’m trying to coordinate a marketing program, I’m at my worst. I’m a catalyst, not a finisher. I need to learn how to be a leader. I need to learn how to be my own version of Steve Jobs – only then will I be valued, because I know I have great instincts, and my life’s challenge is to figure out how to get people to listen to them. I think that starts with not caring if they do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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