When I moved to Silicon Valley in 1993, the Odyssey by John Sculley was my guidebook. Guy Kawasaki’s “Selling the Dream” came next. Each of these books placed a man named Steve Jobs on my radar. According to both Sculley and Kawasaki, this guy Steve Jobs was a special, but prior to my reading he meant little to me.
Apple captivated me but not Steve Jobs. What Sculley and Kawasaki were beginning to make me think was this guy Steve Jobs just might be Apple.
When I had the opportunity to attend an Executive Program on Innovation at Stanford University my eyes were opened. Two of the classes were significant. Jim Collins, who was just releasing his book “Built to Last,” spoke about enduring companies. When asked a question about Apple and Steve Jobs, he said the jury was still out (he wasn’t exactly positive when he said it), and to be fair he was absolutely right.
On that same evening, the speaker was Steve Jobs. We were in the Stanford Faculty Lounge, listening to him talk about great new products he admired. He mentioned Odwalla, Whole Foods, and a company called Pixar.
He spoke about Pixar at some length, describing the development of a movie called “Toy Story,” which was due to be released in the distant future. He spoke about selecting employees and building a leadership team. At that point, he had everyone’s attention as we each began to realize his level of expertise. His depth of knowledge and insight about people was incredible. I began to wonder how Sculley ever replaced him at Apple, and why he was running some small, seemingly irrelevant company called Next.
Here in 2016 we all know Steve Jobs is a legend. His second act at Apple was incredible, and each time he made a brilliant move, I thought about the night at Stanford. Now I find myself examining people who run companies, and wondering if they are leaders. I wonder if they know people or products like Jobs. I wonder if they could answer questions delineating the abc’s of who is and isn’t a capable member of a team. How to choose them? Who not to choose? How to make hard and unsentimental decisions for the sake of the company?
I have been looking around Silicon Valley, and the one guy who fits the mold is Mark Zuckerberg.
Julia Greenberg, in an article for Wired titled “Why Facebook is Killing It–Even When Nobody Else Is,” might just agree with me. Her idea of what makes Facebook tick comes down to these 13 words.
“But throughout Facebook’s evolution, one constant has remained, and he wears a hoodie.”
The world seems to believe the socially maladjusted genius depiction of Mark Zuckerberg in the “Social Network.” While there may be truth to this looking backward, the man currently at the helm of Facebook is a savvy visionary leader. He is the reason Ms. Greenberg can say the company is staying one step ahead.
“More holistically, Facebook has been very good at staying one step ahead.”
When I look at the company Facebook has become it is impossible to avoid the idea. Which idea is this you might ask? The idea of Mark Zuckerberg as the new Steve Jobs of Silicon Valley, or more accurately the chief thought leader of this region. Reading Ms. Greenberg’s description of the company how could anyone disagree?
“Facebook has an aggressive vision of what the future looks like—and it’s constantly testing, iterating, and exploring its vision. It should come as little surprise then that it was Facebook, not Apple or Alphabet, that earlier this month laid out its ten year roadmap. All of which is a strategy that ultimately stems from Zuckerberg’s own sensibility.”
This type of company building would not be possible, unless an individual understood how to build teams, who to select, who to avoid, and how to inspire them. Beginning today, my eyes are on Zuckerberg.
What can I learn from how he is building his leadership team? What can I learn from how he is developing his vision? How has he learned from Steve Jobs, because his effort to keep control of Facebook, seems like a lesson drawn directly from the ghost of Jobs reaching out to him from Next.
Note: Read the entire Greenberg article to understand how Zuckerberg is using class C shares to avoid giving up too much control of Facebook (A key lesson from Jobs?). Read this Forbes article to understand Jobs was a mentor for Zuckerberg.
Also published on Medium.