In 1999, I think right after the iMac came out in a range of colors, I happened to sit in on an internal meeting at Apple, one in a large theater filled with employees. Steve Jobs came out and the whole theater burst into applause, and the clapping went on for minutes, with people standing and cheering. The success of the iMac was just becoming evident – the first act of Steve’s big return, leading from there to what Apple is now.
Steve let the applause go on for a little bit, then, with much effort, settled down the crowd. When things got quiet, the first thing he said was: “That’s an awful lot of applause considering that you guys are the ones who do all the work.”
Everyone leapt to their feet and applauded again for several minutes more, this time with Steve egging them on, applauding each other as a team.
That moment has since defined what I think about as leadership. I’d have to think that however wistful Steve is about leaving Apple today, there must be some part of him looking at the incredible company he’s built, and thinking to himself about today’s news, that’s a lot of applause considering that you’re the ones who do the work. He’d be right to say that, but he’s the leader, and I have always admired that more than any other quality for which he’s praised.
Take care, Steve, I wish you all the best.