Steve’s Legacy

by Sandy Nelson on August 29, 2011

My family and I are taking a summer break in Le Perche—a rural area of rolling hills, thick forests, sturdy farms, Percheron (a breed of magnificent, highly intelligent draft horses) and grazing cattle located a couple of hours Southwest of Paris. Known for exquisite mushrooms, snails, artisanal cheeses and breads, Le Perche is far off the typical tourist routes of Lower Normandy.

The tiny villages that dot the countryside here are mostly workmanlike. It is largely absent architectural distinctiveness, other than the predominance of groups of cubistic, salt-box-like structures that remind me of vacation-inspired landscape paintings by Picasso and friends from a particular slice of time in history. But, this region has grown on me over time. As I have interacted more and more with its delightful, warmly welcoming people—ever so patient with our nascent, halting French—I have come to relish the subtle charms of Le Perch

The other night, just after driving back from a visit to Chateau Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, we wound our way through a tiny village on our way to a new bistro not too far from the farmhouse we are renting. Through darkening skies and steady rainfall, we found ourselves on a typical main street only wide enough for only one car to pass.

The practice here is for residents to park in front of their homes half on, half off narrow sidewalks in city centers. Pulling the outside two wheels of their cars up on the sidewalk, they leave a little less than half the width of their cars in the main road. When autos traveling in opposite directions approach each other, one driver seeks a gap between two parked vehicles to pull over and allow the other to comfortably pass.

At just one of those moments, we eased over to the right to make room for an oncoming vehicle. Through the downpour obscuring vision through our front windshield, I noticed a tiny, mud covered, black car just in front of where we waited. Affixed near the upper right hand edge of its rear door, a crisp, clean, white Apple logo decal glistened like a welcome beacon in the glare of our headlights.

This, my friends, is the legacy of Steve Jobs. In a remote village, off the beaten path, thousands of miles away from One Infinite Loop, passionate advocates of Apple proudly display their affection and loyalty to the ideas, innovations and symbolic adventuresomeness put forth by the house that Steve built—against all odds and frequent prognostications of failure.

As those of who know me and follow these musings are aware, my point of view is that when you peel the many layers of leadership back and reduce complexity to essence, great leaders share five core characteristics—vision, authenticity, integrity, audacity and courage.

What more could you say about Steve Jobs. A powerful visionary, truly authentic, a man who walked his talk, had the audacity to go boldly where others failed and the courage to defy conventional wisdom in service of changing the world.

I have no doubt that Apple will continue to lead in and beyond the industries it chooses to compete within. Why? Not only did Steve oversee the creation and growth of a great company, he assembled and molded a powerful, collaborative team of equally, though different, strong leaders who will continue and build upon his legacy.

As he enters the next phase of life and contribution, I wish him nothing but success in thriving in the face of obvious physical challenge. Thank you, Steve, for all that you gave. Thank you even more for showing us that no matter how high and foreboding perceived barriers to realizing our full potential might seem, they are merely inviting gateways to opportunity in the face of true leadership.

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