Apple's Steve Jobs: A Lesson in Motivating the Troops

Last Updated Feb 3, 2010 3:05 PM EST

Motivating the Troops against a common enemy GoogleIn addition to being an extraordinary CEO and marketer, Apple's Steve Jobs is without a doubt one of the great pitch-men of our time -- or any other time, for that matter. He can create a buzz like nobody's business and he gives one hell-of-an inspiring commencement speech, as we've noted in the past.

Last week, in an "employees only" town hall style meeting a few days after the iPad launch, Jobs demonstrated that he's also a master motivator of employees. This excerpt, as reported by Wired, is a stunning example of uniting the troops against a common enemy:

Jobs, characteristically, did not mince words as he spoke to the assembled, according to a person who was there ...

On Google: We did not enter the search business, Jobs said. They entered the phone business. Make no mistake they want to kill the iPhone. We won't let them, he says. Someone else asks something on a different topic, but there's no getting Jobs off this rant. I want to go back to that other question first and say one more thing, he says. This don't be evil mantra: "It's b***s***." Audience roars.

In addition to taking some pretty pointed stabs at software-maker Adobe, mostly related to its notoriously buggy Flash software - which the iPhone still does not support - Jobs throws down the gauntlet when he challenges Android/Google to "keep up with Apple's iPhone updates."

In retaliation, the Google faithful are shooting back at Jobs, according to gawker.com's Valleywag blog:

"I don't know where people get the idea that competition is evil," writes Paul Buchheit, the ex-Googler who invented "Don't Be Evil," along with Gmail and FriendFeed. One current Googler says he plans to tack up Jobs' "very motivational" quote beside his monitor; another says Jobs myopically "sees all competition as zero-sum."
Rivalries like this one, while appearing to be somewhat juvenile and over-the-top, can have a powerful impact by galvanizing employee's resolve to develop groundbreaking products and meet critical and often extremely challenging product deadlines.

As we noted in The 10 Rules of Great Groups:

We hoist Apple's Steve Jobs up on a superstar-CEO pedestal, but the book [Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration] reveals a relatively unexplored talent of Jobs - his ability to inspire groups of developers to great heights. For example, he told the first Macintosh design team that they were there to "make a dent in the universe." And they did.
It should come as no surprise that Rule No. 6 is "Great groups always have an enemy."

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[Image courtesy James Martin CNET News]