Among the leadership traits which have made Steve Jobs so effective as an innovator has been the ability to create an inspiring vision for talented people to work towards and then get out of their way so that they could make full-use of their talents in pursuit of this vision. While he has always been associated with strong “top-down” leadership, much of it has been applied in the service of releasing innovative energies found towards the “bottom” of the organization. He was able to use his position of power within Apple to both energize innovation project teams, set them loose, and then, if necessary, protect them. The result was often that most magical of innovation outcomes, when the assembled talent believes that they have absolute freedom to apply their energies and skills, while senior management believes that it is in complete control; both at the same time! Jobs did this, with varying degrees of self-restraint in his involvement, with the Lisa, Macintosh and iPod projects, at least, and in each case not only changed the technical worlds of which they were a part, but also launched the careers of the next generation of innovation leaders in the industry. This partnering between a visionary senior executive, and a sort of renegade band of innovators, is not a new phenomenon, but while powerful, is often invisible,  and frequently a “secret ingredient,” for those organizations savvy enough to support it, in the realization of successful innovation.

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