He cursed out reporters whose stories he didn't like. He personally wrote back to individual customers who didn't like his products. He was feared, respected and adored, sometimes all at once.
With the death of Steve Jobs, the business world loses one of its most controversial and closely studied managers, a man whose leadership style will fill MBA textbooks for generations to come.
“He had a clear vision for what technology should deliver to consumers, and his focus on the customer was relentless,” said Rogers president and CEO Nadir Mohamed. “Steve Jobs was one of the greatest innovators of our time.”
Much of Mr. Jobs's success as a business leader came from his unique mix of talents. An accomplished engineer with more than 300 patents to his name, he understood technology better than almost anyone. The launch of the iPad tablet was reported to have been delayed repeatedly because of Mr. Jobs's decision to oversee the project personally, working directly with the engineering and design teams to produce a product that met his definition of perfection – and until it did, it wouldn't see the light of day.
But beyond engineering expertise, Mr. Jobs was a born salesman. He spearheaded Apple's extremely simple, yet extremely effective marketing effort, which included slogans that were often just a word or two long: “Think Different,” or simply “Magical.”
On stage, he made the process of selling consumers on brand-new devices look effortless. In his trademark jeans and black turtleneck, he spoke to his audience with a mix of elation, excitement and calm.
“Steve introduced the iPad at a time when no one had really asked for it,” said Kunal Gupta, CEO of Toronto-based app developer Polar Mobile. “It felt like Steve basically said, ‘here, I think you need this,’ and guess what? We did.”
To be sure, the tenacity wasn't always easy to take. Many reporters described being berated on the phone by Mr. Jobs after publishing an article he believed got the story wrong about Apple. In recent years, customers began flooding Apple's co-founder with personal e-mails because, it turned out, sometimes he responded.
“This is what customers pay us for – to sweat all these details so it’s easy and pleasant for them to use our computers,” Mr. Jobs said in a January, 2000, interview with Fortune Magazine. “We’re supposed to be really good at this. That doesn’t mean we don’t listen to customers, but it’s hard for them to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it.”
Ultimately, Mr. Jobs' mix of tenacity, boldness and technical expertise will stand out in corporate history. And while his style may have been controversial, the results it bore were not. He died having taken the company he helped found from the status of also-ran to – albeit momentarily – the most valuable corporation in the world.
“Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives,” Apple's board of directors said late Wednesday night. “The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.”
Five things you didn’t know about Steve Jobs.
1. He’s the son of a Syrian Muslim
2. He was adopted
3. He helped found one of the most successful movie studios in history
4. He wanted to put the disc drive in the back of the Macintosh
5. He was a Buddhist