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What Can Zuckerberg Learn From Steve Jobs?

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It's a special person -- and personality -- who can lead a start-up to soaring success and sustain that success for the long term. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg are star examples. We've seen the superficial comparisons: both are college drop-outs who founded their empires in their early 20s; both are cultish icons who command the world's attention with the genius behind their innovations, but who are also revered for their eccentricities -- black turtleneck and hoodie included. Clearly, Jobs and Zuckerberg have made an indelible imprint on Silicon Valley; they have also transformed the way millions around the world communicate. The real similarities, of course, are deeper than this.

StandOut Styles

What can be said about these two change agents as people and leaders? Zuckerberg is just learning to lead. Jobs, in his all-too-short 35-year career, was one of the best of his time. I thought it would be fun -- and useful -- to assess Jobs' and Zuckerberg's strength roles, as defined in my StandOut® leadership assessment and training program. I firmly believe there's much Zuckerberg can learn from his "mentor" -- from their shared strengths, and also from their differences.

In the terms of the StandOut assessment, Jobs was an Influencer/Pioneer. Influencer/Pioneers bring movement and momentum to any team. Usually the first on the block to own the newest toy or gadget, he loved to tell the stories of how he got it, how it works, how it's going to revolutionize... everything. Even before everyone started buying what he was selling, he was already working on version 2.0. He reveled in introducing ideas that created a furrow in someone's brow. If he saw a skeptical, quizzical look in their eyes, he knew he had hooked someone. He didn't like to rally behind anything obvious or conventional. If everyone else was doing it, it pained him to toe that line. In fact, he swam against the tide for the simple joy of seeing if he could get anyone to swim with him.

Zuckerberg is a Connector/Pioneer. Someone with that combination tends to be a futurist who comes alive when envisaging possibility. Of course, it's not only about connecting the right people to achieve those possibilities, but also about connecting the right ideas, likely in ways that have never been considered before. If he's not leading the drive to realize his idea, he is introducing people from disparate backgrounds, showing them how their combined talents and products could produce game-changing innovations. He values innovation so highly that he needs constant exposure to streams of cool ideas and their originators. And while he's not as attached to seeing the ideas actually come to fruition, he loves getting in at ground zero so he can tell the story of "I was there when..."

Proof is in the Passion

Jobs was the essence of proving how work and passion go hand-in-hand as a driver of success. After all, who we are can shape our work roles, as much as the other way around. Zuckerberg most resembles Jobs in his intense passion for what he does. At the time of his death, Jobs' estate was worth in excess of $3 billion, yet his desire to engineer surprise, to capture public imagination, and to develop the highest quality products in the world remained paramount to him. Zuckerberg, too, is massively wealthy; yet, as he stated in a letter included in Facebook's SEC filing prior to its recent IPO, "Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission -- to make the world more open and connected."

While the empires of Facebook and Apple may never see eye-to-eye, their founders are kindred spirits. What does this mean for you, if you are Zuck? Be "like" Jobs and continue to invest in the undeniable power of vision. Never forget the importance of surrounding yourself with great people who can execute on that vision. And throughout the ups and downs your company will inevitably face, always remember that it's critical to embrace failure. In a world where consumers have more choice than ever and even louder voices, don't submit to the so-called wisdom of the crowd. Instead, be passionate, think differently, and continue to be the leader that you were meant to be.