Steve Jobs - Tough Mindedness
When people think of exemplary founders with superhuman abilities they typically site Steve Jobs of Apple. He designed product after amazing product that remade or revitalized a number of industries. He had a lot of qualities that founders can learn from.
One that is obvious to everyone is 'tough mindedness'. If he believed that something was right, or that he knew more than the person he was dealing with, moving him off of his position was impossible. The knockdown, drag out arguments he had with cofounders, engineers, and senior management are well documented.
An example of tough mindedness I like is Jobs strict adherence to building closed, fully integrated systems. Any time anybody tied to convince him that the way to go go was to build open systems that others could contribute to, or integrate with, Jobs would have none of it. Seemingly the whole technology world including successful companies like Microsoft and Google were building technology stacks with different hardware and software contributors as well as harnessing armies of application builders. But even in the face of this pressure Jobs did not let market forces or engineers or Bill Gates or the public dissuade him from what he believed was the right way to build products.
Jobs learned a couple things in his early days and leveraged these lessons in every product he built thereafter. He learned that he had a better vision of the future than his customers. He learned that his attention to detail was greater than anyone else. And he learned that the lion's share of a products value is contained in the user experience.
By building a closed system he could control the user experience from the moment the product was taken out-of-the-box until the time it was swapped out form the latest model. He made hardware and software so it worked better together. He filtered apps in the app store to maintain the highest quality. He went so far as to seal his products (like the iPad and iPhone) so they couldn't be tinkered with (even to change the battery).
The proof is that while the iPhone had only 14.5% of the total cell phone volume at the end of 2015, it had 94% of the global profits. Jobs knew this would be the case.
Of course tough mindedness isn't the be all and end all quality for founders. As discussed, tough mindedness can alienate people and it can send a founder down in flames if that person is wrong. The opposing quality - open mindedness - can also be a very important for founders.
But overall, tough mindedness seems to be a key ingredient to not only Jobs success, but other founders as well. When an entrepreneur is trying to make a dent in the universe she or he is going to encounter a lot of resistance from those without a similar vision or from those with a vested interest in the status quo. Getting people to see a new view or to 'think different' requires a very strong will.