Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lessons learned from Steve Jobs

With word of Steve Jobs' death, everyone seems to be writing and blogging about his impact on the world.  So I thought I'd throw my two cents in also. Here are some leadership principles I have learned from Steve Jobs' life and leadership that can be applied in leading a congregation.  
The word that you hear most that describes this great tech giant is visionary.  If someone is fortunate enough to impact society in a way that changes the way all of us live or experience life, then that person is usually lifted up as a leader, an iconic figure.  Jobs has had not one, not two, but six of these breakthroughs, any one of which would have made for a magnificent career.  In order: the Apple II, the Macintosh, the movie studio Pixar, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.  He certainly had a vision but even more important was that he was able to bring that vision to fruition.  The key to doing that was his ability to inspire others to join him in the quest to accomplish his goal.  The story is told that to recruit John Sculley, the former CEO of Pepsi to run Apple in 1983, Jobs famously challenged Sculley by asking, “Do you really want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to change the world?” It was his ability to inspire the right people he needed to join him in accomplishing his vision that made him a success.
As Christian leaders, we have a powerful kingdom purpose, the greatest and most inspirational call to action the world has ever known. Something Steve Jobs did not have.  And I would say the ability to inspire others to this vision is the most important skill a pastor could possess in growing a church numerically and spiritually.  It's hard to understand why a pastor would have trouble communicating this kingdom vision and inspiring others to join what God is doing especially when a pastor has the pulpit at least 50 weeks a year, not to mention the opportunities for one on one conversations.  Don’t you agree that one of the top goals of a pastor would be to inspire others to join in accomplishing God’s vision for the church?  Isn’t that the most important thing you can help your believers do?  Instead, you find pastors preaching about deep doctrinal issues or 10 steps to prosperity.  If you can't inspire your folks to join you in your vision, you may need to find another church or better yet, another calling.  
Steve Jobs once remarked, "focus does not mean saying yes, it means saying no!"  When he was rehired by Apple he began to develop the iMac computer.  He kept the individual computer and computer line simple. And all of the products that Jobs was responsible for creating have the same concept of powerful but simple.   When I was given an ipad for my service at Grace Point, I opened the box and discovered the simple one page instruction sheet which said, push this button to turn on.  Not much instruction was needed.  
In church work, we can often be called to do many things.  But it is imperative that we discover the talent and resources that are unique to our church and focus with laser like clarity on how we can best accomplish our purpose and vision using the people and resources we have.  Keeping it focused means saying no to a lot of ministries that don't advance our purpose, whether they be great or not.  
Jobs was not one who wanted to follow the well traveled path.  He was an out-of-the-box thinker.  But his path to the creation of Apple was built upon the ideas of other creative and innovative people.  Jobs used the concept of personal computing which was being developed by a young computer geek named Steve Wozniak who had no intentions of marketing his idea.  Jobs brought the concept to the masses and the rest is history.  He may not have had the original idea, but he took the quantum idea and built upon it. Innovators are readers, learners, developers, creative sorts who are not afraid to take risks and are willing to expand on ideas of others.  
For many in church, tradition is more valued than change and creativity.  So innovation can be very difficult. But successful churches are usually those who are willing to make changes, take risks and be creative.  It is very easy to just reproduce what others have done in the past or what the denominational leaders ask you to do.  Religion often demands conformity and control and in the process churches can easily lose their unique identity and gifting and fall into a spiritual rut. Create a culture of innovation and ingenuity in your church. It goes back to vision and inspiration.  Others will be willing to change when you give them a reason that is connected to the vision.  Inspire others to imagine what is possible and then be creative about how you are going to accomplish the vision God has given you.  
To read more on the life of Steve Jobs go to   

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