10/27/2011 02:22 pm ET Updated Dec 27, 2011

What Can You Learn From Steve Jobs?

Without question one of the most innovative yet missed leaders of our time, who changed the way people connect with one another and how we experience digital content was Steve Jobs. His holistic view redefined the personal computing, music, animation, cell phone and mobile computing industries, to name just a few. Many say Steve Jobs' legacy will be "the blending of technology and poetry."

What was the basis for Jobs' extraordinary leadership and accomplishments? He had no college degree, let alone an MBA. What drove Steve Jobs -- what got him up every day and compelled him to keep going, even in difficult times -- was passion. He believed that passion was the most important ingredient for success, and it was Apple's core value from the beginning. He is reported as once having said, "Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. Going to bed at night saying, 'I've done something wonderful... that's what matters.'"

I think passion is an often overlooked characteristic of great leaders, and yet the greatest leaders always have it. You might be a creative genius like Steve Jobs, a marketing guru, a numbers expert or a technological whiz, but to really achieve success, you have to love what you do and be passionate about it. Passion is the driver that keeps you moving forward and keeps you on course.

Steve deeply believed in what he was doing. His passion was authentic, and that is a powerful lesson for all of us. You can't fake passion. If you don't genuinely believe in your organization's mission -- and your role in that mission -- you can't lead your team to greatness.

I too have discovered that if you find and live your passion, the rest will follow. I talk about this principle and its connection to great leadership in my book, "It's Not a Glass Ceiling, It's a Sticky Floor." Knowing yourself and being yourself are lifelong endeavors. They are not the result of an exercise you complete in one day, but rather an ongoing process of self-reflection and self-realization. Here are a few thoughts to get you started:

1) Know your heart:
  • Your personal beliefs
  • Your values
  • Your intrinsic motivators
2) Know your mind:
  • Your areas of expertise
  • Your skills
  • Your strengths and weaknesses
3) Know your dreams:
  • Your short-term and long-term goals
  • Your hopes and fears
  • Your immediate intentions
4) Know your vision:
  • What you truly want -- now and in the future
  • What you want your legacy to be
  • Who you want to be "at the end"

In a commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, Steve Jobs shared this thought with the graduates:

You've got to find what you love... Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

Find your passion, live your passion, lead from your passion!

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