A Leadership Parable from Steve Jobs: Reach Hearts First and Their Minds Will Follow (Video)


For a master class in how to sell an idea — and in this case, a product as well — with emotion, watch Steve Jobs’ June 12, 2005 Stanford commencement address. It’s one of the most moving and effective pieces of oratory I’ve ever seen.


During the speech, Jobs talked about something powerful. He discussed the tremendous amount of time that we spend working at our jobs.

If you’re going to spend that much of your life doing one thing, he told his audience, don’t you want to do work that matters?

What would I do if today were my last day?

He also gave the Stanford 2005 graduating class a great piece of advice. He said,

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, if today were the last day on my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been "no" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Jobs’ call to action at the end of his Stanford address was equally interesting. He said, “When I was younger I got great advice. Be foolish.” And by that he meant, “be foolish and be hungry.” Those are the two calls to action he left with his audience.

He showed vulnerability, which was palpable and powerful. He was reminding us about the importance of asking questions when you don’t know the answers. He talked about how hunger and foolishness often lead to inquisitiveness and how that inquisitiveness yields drive, building qualities and intangibles inside of us that are so important that we can’t even measure them.

Here was a man who often was the smartest guy in the room. But notice how he often camouflaged his intelligence with emotion when he spoke.

When Jobs introduced the iPod, he didn’t talk about hardware and software. He talked about the prospect of having a thousand songs in your pocket. It was delivered in language that was easy to follow, packed with emotion, and translated easily from speaker to listener.

The tug of war between hearts and minds

Jobs’ communication tactics were straightforward. The smartest guy in the room did not communicate in facts and figures. He did so with simplicity, energy, and above all, conviction.

When you integrate those three qualities — simple tones, creativity, and emotion — nothing is lost. They can absorb all of it, and the ideas behind your speech will stick.

For members of the audience, there is often a tug-of-war that is fought between their intelligence and their hearts. They feel one thing, but their minds tell them to do another. Most speakers start with the mind and try to get to people’s hearts.

I encourage my clients to do the opposite. Reach people’s hearts first, and their minds will inevitably follow.

Excerpted with permission from A Climb to the Top: Communication & Leadership Tactics to Take Your Career to New Heights Copyright Advantage, 2016, by Chuck Garcia