Last week Steve Jobs, the visionary and creative genius behind Apple,
died. Within hours my inbox, Facebook feed, and Twitter account were filled with links to, and quotes from, his 2005 Stanford Commencement
address. The central theme was this: live your life fully and honor
your unique interests and passions. Your time on earth is finite–get
out there and engage with the world!
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.
Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the results of other
people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out
your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow
your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly
want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs’s 2005
Stanford Commencement Address
Jobs’s message is one of authenticity: honor yourself, your strengths,
your interests, your abilities, and do so without apology or attempt
to placate others. I would assert that there is no better quality or
characteristic we can bring to the world, to our organizations, to our
teams, to our friends and families, than this authenticity.
In fact, I would argue that Jobs not only led from this heart-centered
place of authenticity, but that the Apple product line also embodies
this quality. You don’t need a detailed manual to operate any of
Apple’s hardware (iPod, iPhone, iPad), because its design is in direct
alignment with its function: It is authentic. This pleasurable
usability is the often commented upon brilliance of Apple products.
As an authentic leader, a heart-centered leader, there
is little need for a detailed owner’s manual or how-to directions. It
can take practice to identify, and courage to begin to act in
alignment with our values, but enabling the heart, the inner voice
Jobs describes, as the decision-maker can bring profound results. When
the heart is making decisions and leading–watch out. Watch out,
because this is the space where truly brilliant things can happen, and
those who follow our lead are inspired, engaged, and eager to bring
their talents to the table.
I have spent the better part of the last twenty years climbing the
highest mountains all over the globe, an unconventional life that
invited a lot of envious comments and awe-struck audiences. But
eventually I found that climbing for the sake of climbing wasn’t
enough for me. My heart wasn’t in it. I needed to take my climbing to
the next level, and for me that meant what could be seen as
comparatively pedestrian: teaching and facilitating leadership
development through adventure and the metaphor of adventure. Unfolding
this more recent path is following, as Jobs references, my heart and
intuition. It is my authentic work: my energy and passion for it are
undeniable, and as I work with clients, it is undeniably contagious.
For me this has been the space where I have brought my values and
actions in alignment; it is the space of authenticity. Certainly not
always the easiest place to be–but THE place to be as leaders, THE
place to be to bring our teams and organizations together to achieve
great things, and THE place to be to bring our best self forward and
have the most significant and positive impact on the world and our
As leaders we have a choice today and every day. We can choose to
parse out our tasks and projects as we have historically–perhaps with
limited, but sufficient, buy-in from our teams and colleagues. Or, we
can identify how our heart, intuition, and inner voice can shape and
impact our organizations.
So take a moment to reflect on your role as a leader–are your actions
in alignment with your values? How can you bring yourself more fully,
more authentically, into the workplace? What perceived roadblocks are
you facing that might be removed by speaking, acting, and working from
this place of authenticity?
Thankfully, we can start today, we can start immediately. And the best
part about it? We don’t need an owner’s manual or directions. We only
need to stop, listen to our intuition, and honor it by bringing it
Matthew Walker is the principal of Inner Passage, a company that uses adventure to teach leadership development to both individuals and organizations. His most recent book ‘Adventure in Everything’ examines
how to bring authenticity, inspiration, and purpose into our everyday lives. You can learn more and download the first chapter free at www.adventureineverything.com
[Image: Flickr user Chad Podoski]