This is the second of a series based upon the article The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.
Know Both the Big Picture and the Details
“Even as he was laying out these grand visions, he was fretting over the shape and color of the screws inside the iMac.”
Macromanage or micromanage? Sometimes we believe that this is our choice. Leaders who fret over details are labeled “micromanagers” and rarely is it meant as a compliment.
Yet, here is Steve Jobs, visionary extraordinaire and he also sweated the details. It got me thinking. Is it bad to see the forest AND the trees? Yes and No.
There is tremendous strength in being able to see a vision all the way from the final product to every detail that goes into making a that product. Imagine for a moment a leader who has a big idea, but really no concept of what it takes to realize that idea. He is ineffectual. Or, a leader who has a great idea and then leaves all the details to others, only to find that at the end of the day they produce a product that is completely different from her original concept. So there has to be something in between. There must be a way for a leader to have the vision of the big picture and be able to handle the details.
This period in our year – the time between Passover and Shavuot – might be instructive for us in this regard. There is a Big Picture going on here – the move from slavery to freedom, from living under the repression of Egypt to receiving our own law and way of life in the Torah. Yet, we are focused on each day as we count methodically to get to the 49th day. Each day brings the opportunity to make the changes we need in order to be prepared to reach the goal – the holiday of Shavuot. Without working every day on the details, our vision of a Jewish way of life might be out of reach. So life is a balance of both the Big Picture and the details. They have to work together.
Here’s the catch – it works IF, and that’s a big if (and I don’t mean just the font), you could at the same time, empower others to execute their jobs. The trap of micromanaging is not the leader’s handle on the details or even a detailed vision – one down to the screws on the machine. It is the inability to let others run with the implementation of the idea. The curse of the micromanager is bottleneck. When you reach a point where no one in the office makes a decision without your input, you are sunk. While detailed questions might have risen to Job’s attention, there were many decisions being made daily at Apple that enabled the work to continue. Jobs communicated his vision – down to the shape and size of a screw – and let others figure out how to get it done. Then he could obsess about his next vision.