What critical skill made Steve Jobs and Bill Gates successful?

gates jobs

According to Elon Musk what Jobs and Gates had in common was their ability to attract top talent and earn employee loyalty.

Despite being rivals at various points in their careers, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates shared many commonalities.

“They’re obviously very driven and they’re very talented,” says SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk in an interview with Autobild.tv.

Yet what really helped them build such successful companies, says Musk, was their ability to attract top talent and earn employee loyalty.

“The ability to attract and motivate great people is critical to the success of a company, because a company is just a group of people that are assembled to create a product or service,” Musk explains, noting that people sometimes forget this “elementary truth.”

“If you’re able to get great people to join the company and work together towards a common goal,” he says, “then you will end up with a great product.” Musk adds that a great product attracts buyers, and the more buyers you have, the more successful your company will be.

So what can founders who may not be quite as brilliant as Jobs or Gates learn from their examples? Despite what you might assume, neither Apple nor Microsoft paid the highest salaries or had the best benefits in the industry. What they each had was a brilliant vision and mission, the ability to communicate that vision and inspire their teams to exceed what  they thought were their maximum capabilities.  The classic story about Steve Jobs recruiting John Sculley as Apple CEO tells it all. Sculley was at that time the youngest ever President of Pepsi and king of the CPG market – consumer packaged goods. When Sculley dithered about joining Apple Jobs said to him,  “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life or do you want to change the world?”

Gates’ vision of a personal computer on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software, drove the company to unparalleled success for years. It wasn’t until the rise of mobile as the platform of choice, displacing the PC, and Gates replacing himself with Steve Ballmer as CEO, that Microsoft stumbled.

But the most important take away from the CNBC.com article Elon Musk says this crucial skill is what made Steve Jobs and Bill Gates successful comes not from Jobs nor Gates, but from Elon Musk.

“We want our leaders to find ways of motivating and inspiring their teams, reduce the noise in their work and help remove blockers,” Musk tells Glassdoor. “If you are a manager or leading at any level at SpaceX, we stress that your team is not there to serve you. You are there to serve your team and help them do the best possible job for the company.”

It took me a few years as a manager to realize that my job was to help my team succeed, and that was the job of every manager. While you might not have quite the inspiring vision of Gates or the mission of Steve Jobs, you can certainly emulate Elon Musk who requires that senior executives lead their employees through “selflessness.”

And this culture of managers serving their teams will also help you to both recruit and motivate new employees, the number one priority of founders and senior managers.

Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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