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Ron Nehring

What we can all learn from Californian Steve Jobs

Politics is about leadership, and those of us who are active in the conservative movement often look for excellence in the private sector to inspire better governance.

For this reason, in light of recent developments we should take a moment to learn from one of California’s most famous private sector leaders: Steve Jobs.

The modern era of personal computing came about while I was in high school and college, and I was never much of an Apple guy.  In those days, kids chose brands in the emerging computer wars like they were rival sports teams.  Apple vs. IBM, Red Sox vs. Yankees, same thing.  I barely noticed when Jobs was dumped from the company he co-founded by then-CEO John Scully.

Yet Jobs’ career and the impact of his work on the rest of us and how we lead our lives are both exceptional and noteworthy.  His return to Apple and the success the company has enjoyed since is an inspiring testament to the power of devotion when combined with both skill and judgment.  Jobs started a new comany, NeXT, after being forced out of Apple, leading to multiple innovations that would later be incorporated into Apple once Jobs returned.  The world’s first web server was a NeXT workstation at CERN in Switzerland.

In politics and in business, vision matters.  Apple would not be one of the most recognized companies in the world if it was focused merely on the technical mechanics of moving electrons around faster, keeping screens from flickering and hard drives from crashing.  Leaders must provide a vision for the future and possess the ability to get an organization there.  Jobs’ vision of putting Apple at the forefront of making technology simpler and more powerful at the same time helped to bring tech out of geekdom and into the mainstream.

Communication matters as well, and Jobs’ legendary product rollout presentations to adoring Apple developers and users reminds us that the power to make people understand what you’re doing and why, and to do so in an inspirational, forward looking way, is a critical skillset today.  You can see Jobs’ rollout of the iPhone 4 here.

Speaking of communicating, Jobs was remarkably blunt in comments he made about unions in public education, referring to unionization in schools as “off the charts crazy.”  Education was a passion for Jobs, who launched many education initiatives while at Apple, and it was a major focus during his time with NeXT.

Finally, while we may enjoy great success in life, sadly Jobs’ recent setbacks reminds our health is truly our most important asset.  I was moved to write this article today after seeing the most recent photos of Steve Jobs post-resignation, and his frail condition signals that the time we will have him among us as Californians may be more limited than it should be.  For many reasons I hope that’s not the case – California is a better place with a leader like Steve Jobs in it.