[Reading level: B2 – Upper Intermediate]
From the early days of Apple, Steve Jobs knew he wanted the build a successful company. At one point, Apple hired two “professional” managers from outside the company. Then Jobs promptly fired them.
“It didn’t work at all,” a young Steve Jobs says in a video making the rounds on YouTube. “Most of them were bozos. They knew how to manage but they didn’t know how to do anything.”
The video was recently resurrected by Quartz at Work. Though it’s pre-black turtleneck era Jobs, the insight Apple’s founder shares is timeless.
After swearing off seasoned professionals who had management experience, Jobs says he started looking for a different quality: passion. “We wanted people that were insanely great at what they did, but were not necessarily those seasoned professionals,” he explains. “But who had at the tips of their fingers and in their passion the latest understanding of where technology was and what they could do with that technology.”
Jobs didn’t care how polished someone’s resume was, or where they had been before. He wanted passionate problem solvers. To replace those external managers he fired, Jobs pulled in Debi Coleman, who had been working in a different department. She was an inexperienced 32-year-old who had a English literature degree. (Coincidentally, this is one of the majors Mark Cuban predicts will have the most value in the coming years.) After working as the company’s manufacturing chief, Coleman went on to become Apple’s CFO by age 35.
Jobs goes on to explain that great employees shouldn’t need to be managed. If they are passionate, smart and driven enough, they can manage themselves. But they do need to fully understand the company’s vision.
That’s where the “management” role comes in. Instead of directing their employees how to do their job, Jobs believed leadership should be focused on articulating that shared vision so everyone could be working towards the same goal.
Later in the video, early employees share how they learned to zero in on that passion during the interview process. Andy Hertzfeld, one of Apple’s first software engineers, says the team would show an interviewee the Macintosh prototype. They’d then watch how the person reacted. If the candidate didn’t have much of a reaction, then the Apple team knew it was a hard pass. “We wanted their eyes to light up and to get really excited,” Hertzfeld said. “Then we knew they were one of us.”