We often think of leaders as being visionaries, innovators, and big picture thinkers. They are the individuals who focus on the fun part of business by generating excitement for the future, developing a culture of creativity, and forecasting change to navigate continued growth. Steve Jobs is a modern-day visionary. His leadership resulted in elevating Apple to success after being on the verge of non-existence. What we tend to overlook is that Steve Jobs was also involved in the details.
We tend to think leaders who get involved in the day-to-day operations are being intrusive or micromanagers, but it’s important for them to know and understand all aspects of the organization. While they are not responsible for performing every detailed function, their knowledge of these processes inform the decision-making process. Leaders need to balance both the big picture and the details to drive success.
One Sunday morning in 2008, Steve Jobs called Vic Gundotra, the man behind Google+, and left an urgent message. Following his attendance at religious services, Gundotra returned Jobs’ telephone call. The urgent issue? Jobs noticed that the second “o” in the Google logo was not the correct yellow gradient when viewed on the iPhone. He called Vic to inform him that someone from the Apple team had been assigned to help correct the problem and was hoping Vic could have the issue resolved by tomorrow. In later interviews, Gundotra said he learned a lesson that he would never forget, “CEOs should care about details. Even shades of yellow. On a Sunday.”
Jobs was not being picky. He made it a practice to concern himself with all aspects of the organization. It was important to deliver a quality user experience that people had come to expect from Apple products. Many people might not have noticed that the yellow gradient in the second “o” in the Google logo was not right, but it is this attention to detail that separates one product from the next in a competitive market. This type of focus not only applies to organizations who offer products, but also that deliver services.
What is often interpreted as micromanaging is really a focus on quality assurance and accountability. As leaders, it is important that people feel empowered and retain ownership. It is equally important that leaders maintain a pulse on the details and actively collaborate with team members. Leaders can easily fall into a false sense of security and take hard-working team members for granted, especially when they deliver consistent results.
Steve Jobs believed that everything a brand does is a form of advertising and therefore, no detail is ever insignificant. Every way an organization interacts with its customer, team members, or even students reflects either a positive or negative message. Paying attention to the details allows leaders to effectively plan for challenges, repurpose existing resources, and innovate solutions. When details are abandoned in an effort to focus on big picture thinking, accountability falters, quality suffers, and progress stops.
Successful leaders do not just rely on their leadership abilities, luck, or timing. They make time to focus on the intimate details of the organization so they can plan for the future. They seek out opportunities to understand the details and create a culture of accountability so that improvements, innovation, and creativity continue to move the organization forward. They neither seek to get in the way of progress nor micromanage.
Great leaders know that focusing on the details and aligning with an organization’s “why” allows their brand to excel when faced with obstacles, to stand out from its competitors, and to shine in a market cluttered with commonality. Success is in the details.
“Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right.” ~ Steve Jobs
How does focusing on the details strengthen your leadership abilities?