Former Apple CEO John Sculley: What I learned from Steve Jobs

“John Sculley and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs got together every weekend for five months as Jobs was trying to convince Sculley to take a job at Apple. Sculley, who was the CEO of Pepsi at the time, first met Jobs after Thanksgiving in 1982,” Catherine Clifford reports for CNBC. “‘We got to know each other very, very well, but at the end of it I said, ‘Steve, I’ve thought about it and I’m not coming to Apple,” Sculley, now 79, tells CNBC Make It. This was the last Sunday in March, 1983. ‘Steve paused and thought for a while, and then he was about 18 inches away from me — and in those days he was in his 20s and he had jet black hair, very dark eyes and he was right in my face — and he said, ‘You want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?””

“One of Jobs’ talents was convincing talented people to work with him. ‘Steve had that ability to put into words exactly a message that would resonate with the people he was trying to recruit,’ Sculley says,” Clifford reports. “Indeed, it worked for Sculley. In the years Sculley and Jobs worked together at Apple (Jobs resigned in 1985 before returning to the company again in 1997), Sculley learned numerous lessons from the iconic inventor and entrepreneur.”

Clifford reports, “‘I would say the most important lesson I learned was the incredible combination of an insatiable curiosity combined with an obsessive desire to change the world, and how much impact that kind of leadership could have on not just the company but on society in general,’ says Sculley.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: A more important lesson:

Don’t force out the uncompromising genius whose visionary ideas spin gold.

‘Twas Sculley, the unprepared sugared water salesbozo, who made the stupidest decision of his life (even more stupid than signing away the company jewels to Microsoft and ushering in The Personal Computing Dark Ages) by pushing the life force out of Apple.

John Sculley: Apple TV will be the company’s most revolutionary product (as if he knows anything) – September 1, 2015
John Sculley: Forcing Steve Jobs out of Apple was a mistake – April 18, 2014
Failed Apple CEO John Sculley: If I were Samsung, I would tap Ron Johnson – April 10, 2013
If John Sculley says Apple must do this then Apple probably shouldn’t – January 17, 2013
Former Apple CEO Sculley gives his take on Steve Jobs – January 13, 2012
John Sculley: I wish I told Steve Jobs ‘This is your company, let’s figure out how you can come back and be CEO’ – Septemeber 13, 2011
Steve Jobs steps down the first time: The 1985 press coverage – August 26, 2011
John Sculley: Apple’s big mistake was hiring me as CEO – October 14, 2010
Sculley: Uh, maybe I shouldn’t have fired Steve Jobs – June 7, 2010


  1. “Don’t force out the uncompromising genius whose visionary ideas spin gold.”

    Yeah no kidding. But of course it was Steve’s sojourn outside of Apple and maturing that would later pave the way to greater glory. But who’s to say what might’ve happened if Steve had stayed and Sculley wisely worked with him?

    1. Does anyone think thai if Apple had failed after Jobs’ departure that Sculley would be praising Jobs now, once a sleezy self serving politician you own it.

      1. Sculley was a below-average CEO and the worst a CEO has to offer in terms of the kind of forward thinking a company like Apple needs. Kind of laughable. Just because he could (depose Jobs) doesn’t mean he should.

        We are seeing some of that lack of forward inventiveness with Tim Cook too.

        1. Amelia was given an impossible job. His previous success was saving a company by restructuring and expense cuts. He was not a product guy and was in search of a vision for Apple when he was sacked. His lack of success at Apple was as much his doing as it was the Board of Directors who were equally blind to how to “fix” Apple.

          Given corporate thought back then I can’t imagine anyone else resuscitating Apple other than Jobs. Jobs was unique AT THAT TIME in that he had matured as a manager and had an incredible vision.

        2. Or incompetence? I think most of Apple’s CEO’s really didn’t understand their mission outside of Jobs and he was an undisciplined firebrand that needed a little maturing. Emilio was smart enough to realize it’s original voice was badly needed by the time they were considering radically upgrading the Mac OS. As a CEO I think even he knew he didn’t have what it took to run a unique tech company like Apple. And that’s always the rub – honest introspection. Some CEO’s outlive their welcome, usefulness and competence. Worse is when they don’t understand the core mission and what the brand stands for. I think Tim Cook suffers a bit from this. Some would say a LOT.

    2. Yes, who knows what would have happened. Maybe nothing because technology wasn’t ready to produce an ipod, iPhone, etc etc. And a decent OSX couldn’t run on consumer grade hardware of the 1990s. So maybe Jobs visions needed time for tech to catch up….. or maybe we’d have flying cars now, who knows.

  2. Yeah, it was a stupid move by Sculley to oust Steve, but, as you inferred, his time in ‘the wilderness’ was instrumental in helping him to become who he eventually became.

    Those interim years, though. Pretty brutal.

  3. I’ve always thought that Sculley’s ambition (and Steve’s obnoxious behavior) is what drove Steve out. Sculley wanted to be the head man, and he probably found putting up with Steve to be an increasingly expensive price to pay for his job. I truly believe Apple would not be what it is today if Steve had not been chastened by this experience. For that, I am grateful.

  4. google, facebook, netflix, yahoo, snap, whatsapp etc.
    all started with young founders. only the stupid sculley kicked apple’s founder out. dump move.

    1. Jobs nearly killed Apple by himself with his own immature behavior. It took a few years in the wilderness for Jobs to get perspective necessary to lead others.

      Sculley was not a bad manager. He was a bad visionary and product development chief. Too much branding, not enough tech investment (much like Cook). Unfortunately, what Sculley learned from Jobs, he only understood years after he retired and had time to think about it. It looks to me like Cook didn’t learn a damn thing from Jobs. Replacing Cook with Sculley might be an improvement with regard to hardware product updates and support.

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