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Apple First, Boss Second
You can say about Steve Jobs and the culture he created at Apple what you want (and I surely have mixed feelings about the man I was fortunate enough to meet once – promptly to be yelled at as we narrowly missed a sales target) – his instincts both for products but also for how to create an enduring company were spot on.
Shortly after he came back to Apple, after being kicked out of the company he founded by a CEO he hired, to go on then and struggle through creating another visionary computer company and a little animation company, which he later sold to the House of Mouse, he made the following statement to reporter David Sheer:
We always tell people, “You work for Apple first and your boss second.” We feel pretty strongly about that.
Maybe more than anything else, Jobs succeeded in turning Apple into an iconic company—one of the few that managed to stay relevant and became an enduring, beloved brand. There aren’t too many of those around – you might see them in the sports and outdoor space (NIKE or Patagonia, for example); Porsche gained this status in cars and a few others in different industries. Surely this has a lot to do with ensuring you continue to create superior products your customers crave and love – but it also has to do with how your people see your company.
Jobs elevated Apple above the temporary configuration of the people working there at any given moment. The company goes on long after the people have left – that’s the true legacy a leader can leave. Steve Jobs died on October 5th, 2011. Nearly twelve years later and Apple is stronger than ever.