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A Perfect Summation of Steve Jobs

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Like buying a gift for the man who has everything, what can be said about the man who's had everything said about him?

Steve Jobs is many things. To those who know him, to those who don't. To those who worship the ground he walks on, to those who find his methods overly draconian and hypocritical. Like the unforgettable ad campaign he fostered, he's not fond of rules and has no respect for the status quo. He was quoted, disagreed with, glorified, and vilified.

But he was never ignored -- at least, if a tech writer valued his job.

Jobs announced yesterday that he was stepping down as CEO, but will be remaining on Apple's Board of Directors. COO Tim Cook will be taking over duties as chief executive. As expected, the stock bucked a bit, but investors are -- and should be -- confident in the direction Apple is headed. For Cupertino, there's little doubt there's a game plan in place for the better part of a decade.

And Steve will still be kicking around the office, offering his invaluable insight on products, and likely being his usual nuisance to the Apple design team. All for the better.

It's hard to sum up the life of a man like Jobs, even if a couple biographies are slated to do so in the coming months. But a wealth of words can be said in little moments, and Google's SVP of Social Business Vic Gundotra has a doozie.

Posting an entry on Google+, Gundotra offers an anecdote about Jobs' style as the head of Apple. And even in the little details, so much can be gleaned about him as a leader, a legend, and a persnickety perfectionist.

Icon Ambulance

One Sunday morning, January 6th, 2008 I was attending religious services when my cell phone vibrated. As discreetly as possible, I checked the phone and noticed that my phone said "Caller ID unknown". I choose to ignore.

After services, as I was walking to my car with my family, I checked my cell phone messages. The message left was from Steve Jobs. "Vic, can you call me at home? I have something urgent to discuss" it said.

Before I even reached my car, I called Steve Jobs back. I was responsible for all mobile applications at Google, and in that role, had regular dealings with Steve. It was one of the perks of the job.

"Hey Steve - this is Vic", I said. "I'm sorry I didn't answer your call earlier. I was in religious services, and the caller ID said unknown, so I didn't pick up".

Steve laughed. He said, "Vic, unless the Caller ID said 'GOD', you should never pick up during services".

I laughed nervously. After all, while it was customary for Steve to call during the week upset about something, it was unusual for him to call me on Sunday and ask me to call his home. I wondered what was so important?

"So Vic, we have an urgent issue, one that I need addressed right away. I've already assigned someone from my team to help you, and I hope you can fix this tomorrow" said Steve.

"I've been looking at the Google logo on the iPhone and I'm not happy with the icon. The second O in Google doesn't have the right yellow gradient. It's just wrong and I'm going to have Greg fix it tomorrow. Is that okay with you?"

Of course this was okay with me. A few minutes later on that Sunday I received an email from Steve with the subject "Icon Ambulance". The email directed me to work with Greg Christie to fix the icon.

Since I was 11 years old and fell in love with an Apple II, I have dozens of stories to tell about Apple products. They have been a part of my life for decades. Even when I worked for 15 years for Bill Gates at Microsoft, I had a huge admiration for Steve and what Apple had produced.

But in the end, when I think about leadership, passion and attention to detail, I think back to the call I received from Steve Jobs on a Sunday morning in January. It was a lesson I'll never forget. CEOs should care about details. Even shades of yellow. On a Sunday.

To one of the greatest leaders I've ever met, my prayers and hopes are with you Steve.


(See also: Most Influential CEOs: Apple's Steve Jobs Embraces His Inner Control Freak and Apple Ripped Off Stanley Kubrick, Says Samsung)

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