Jobs was different from many other corporate leaders in that he always knew what he wanted. When he returned to Apple after his decade-long banishment starting in the mid-80′s, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. He actually wrote some of the better lines of the famous “Think Different” manifesto ad that helped refocus the company and bring it back from the brink, and even got personally involved in the editing of the finished spot (see the rare Jobs-narrated tribute commercial, below). The bar was always raised very high for his team, almost preternaturally. This tyranny of unreasonableness in demanding of those around him to leap above and beyond what they assumed was only just possible, was a reflection of his complete belief, almost a religious devotion, in explosive inspiration over process.
Jobs traveled around India in the mid-1970s for 7 months, and in the process discovered Zen. It influenced his thinking, and instilled in him a confidence to trust in his intuition when it comes to making decisions. He famously said, “You can’t ask customers what they want and then give it to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new”. Creative leadership is also about anticipating needs, and the confidence to rely on intuition to complement market and consumer understanding
Lastly, to Jobs, design was never for its own sake, but for something greater – the shaping of experiences. He thought as marketer but also as a consumer. And, from that vantage point, he understood how to simplify design and make devices part of our everyday experience, thereby enabling people more enjoyment of their complicated lives. He believed in simplicity as a means of engaging people and letting them feel close to something as overwhelming as technology. In an interview to Business Week in 1998 he said, “That’s been one of my mantras — simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
For Jobs creativity was about knowing what you want, applying intuition, and keeping it simple. And maybe his genius is in how deceptively uncomplicated it seems. Yet at the end his approach to creative leadership required raising the bar remarkably high, inspiring others to do the impossible, and an almost unwavering ability to focus.