When I went to get my coffee this morning, I absently said, "Good morning" to the guy in line behind me. "But it's not a good morning," he said pointing at a story in the Washington Post on the death of Steve Jobs.
The Wall Street Journal notes that Jobs, who died yesterday, succumbing to a rare form of pancreatic cancer, at the age of 56, "ranks in the industrial pantheon along with Edison and Ford:"
People will be trying to isolate and bottle the "leadership secrets of Steve Jobs" till the end of business time. But of course it's impossible.
His story isn't just the story of a person, but the combination of time, place and person, spawning a career in industrial design of awesome proportions. Mr. Jobs founded two pivotal companies in American history. Both happened to be named Apple. One was the Apple of the Macintosh, the other was the Apple of the iPhone.
From the beginning, he saw the human possibility in the extraordinarily complex hardware and software engineering of digital devices. The Macintosh should work in a way that's intuitive, that doesn't require an owner's manual. And today you only need to survey the blogosphere or friends with toddlers to hear stories of 3-year-olds picking up an iPad and quickly sussing out what it's for.
I love the piece by the Journal's computer guru, Walter Mossberg:
That Steve Jobs was a genius, a giant influence on multiple industries and billions of lives, has been written many times since he retired as Apple's chief executive in August. He was a historical figure on the scale of a Thomas Edison or Henry Ford, and set the mold for many other corporate leaders in many other industries.
He did what a CEO should. He hired and inspired great people; managed for the long term, not the quarter or the short-term stock price; made big bets and took big risks. He insisted on the highest product quality and on building things to delight and empower actual users, not intermediaries like corporate IT directors. As he liked to say, he lived at the intersection of technology and liberal arts.
And he could sell. Man, he could sell.
This captures the quintessentially American quality of Steve Jobs's remarkable life. Mossberg also portrays Jobs as an optimist, thus showing how he embodied another characteristic that has defined Americans.
I don't want to get all preachy and point out that Jobs was an entrepreneur whose products didn't need government loans because-guess what?-he was willing to take risks. But this is implicit in what people are writing about Jobs this morning.