There Is No i In Apple

I’ve never met Steve Jobs.

And, frankly, I don’t know that much about him other than the headlines. I’ve heard several personal anecdotes from some people I’ve met who’ve worked directly with him, but that hardly does justice to filling out a complete picture of anyone. 

So, it was a treat for me to see so many personal stories roll onto the internet last night as the world processed news that he was resigning as CEO of Apple. 

Of the many stories I read last night, the one that revealed so much to me was shared by my friend Marc Hedlund. It was a short post, so I hope he’ll indulge me reblogging it in it’s entirety:

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.

Reading through the many compilation of Jobs’ quotes last night a similar theme emerges. When speaking of personal foibles or lessons learned he uses I and Me. But, when he speaks of the company he founded, was fired from and helped resuscitated to life he speaks in We and Us. 

In his resignation letter submitted to the Apple board I was struck by his final request:

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

I’m sure the lawyers in the house will say that he had to ask to remain an Apple employee but I read it differently. I read it as a longing to continue on as a part of the collective We that is Apple.

There is no i in Apple. There is no i in Founder. There is no i in Entrepreneur. There is no i in CEO and there is no i in Leader. 

This is a common trait among the CEOs I enjoy working with the most. They think and speak in We and Us not I and Me. Imagine how different our world would be if all of our leaders did the same.