Analysis of Steve Jobs' Leadership Style
Steve Jobs was born on February 24, 1955. His biological parents were Abdul Fattah and Joanne Simpson. Both of them were university graduates from WisconsinUniversity. They gave their unnamed son for adoption. Paul and Clara Jobs adopted him and named him Steven Jobs. Clara was an accountant and Paul was a machinist and a Coast Guard expert. The family lived in California’s Silicon Valley. At an early age, Steve and his father would work on electronics, take them apart and then reconstruct them back. This gave him confidence and mechanical prowess in the field of electronics.
Steve was intelligent, creative and brilliant in class, but was not enthusiastic about formal schooling. In elementary school, during his fourth grade, the teacher had to bribe him to stay in school and study. When he was at high school, he went to Hewlett-Packard to spend his free time there, and that is where he got acquainted with Steve Wozniak, a prominent computer engineer. After high school, he was enrolled at ReedsCollege. He left college after six months and only attended the typography class. In 1976, at an age of 21, he and Wozniak founded Apple Computers. They started operating at Steve’s father garage. This is how the renowned Apple came in to being.
Steve Jobs was loved and hated by people, depending on how one was related to him. As a boss at Apple’s, he was challenging, critical, forceful and inspirational. On the other hand, as a business person, he was cold and cunning. His business tactics were merciless and impeccable. In all his dealings, he was straight and could not hesitate to speak aloud what was in his mind. However, Steve Job’s leadership ability was unequivocal.
Steve was a dynamic and charismatic leader. According to Kippenberger, charismatic leaders have a powerful vision, self-confidence, a strong fervor that they are right and a dominant personality. He believes that these qualities help them to sustain the firm’s activity during crises or periods of instant changes. However, it can also endanger them in case if they make the wrong decision. As a charismatic leader, Steve was inspirational, used stories as a way of motivating his workers. His perfectionism was inspiring. His charismatic personality enabled Apple to go through crises and periods of extreme transformation. He was able to compel his employees to work 90 hours per week joyfully in order to meet the set deadlines for the various activities. His charisma, fervor, and dominating influence resulted in his resign from Apple after he adamantly declined to change the path he believed Apple needed to take.
He was enthusiastic and passionate about Apple’s products. He had the determination of a poor kid to make Apple a success. In Steve’s strong conviction, charisma, and dominating influence lay the seeds that would contribute to the success of Apple, and at the same time the poison that would make him an enemy to many people.
Steve was an adopted kid and, therefore, had to struggle with identity issues as a child. This pained him and at one point, he sought the services of a private investigator to track down his real mother. Steve embraced the use of stories to motivate and inspire people. This was a powerful tool for him as a leader, especially in a technological environment since it enabled him to build a tradition and promote his dream and mission for Apple. He believed in making a dent in the world through Apple. By the use of stories, he made employees at Apple have a feeling that they were making an impact in the world. This gave the employees a sense of devotion and purpose, something that has continued up to date in the company.
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple in 1976. In 1977, they made Apple II, which could run programs and thus became the first personal computer in the market. Steve had a strong approach to leadership within the company, though he did not have a formal position as CEO. His charisma and overpowering personality attracted people. This eventually led to a struggle for power at the company after contradiction of his goals with those of the other corporate members.
Steve’s way of interaction with his employees was unpredictable. Sometimes he would be extremely rewarding, kind and motivating and at other times, he would be cruel, thankless, demanding and despondent. He also behaved in this unpredictable way with his customers, suppliers and other companies. He also possessed an astonishing ability to get people to do or give him what he wanted. This helped him solve a conflict that came up due to increased demand and reduced supply of the Apple II because of machine failure.
Steve was fanatical about his company. His drive and passion had obliged his employees to believe in their actions, and this gave him overshadowing leadership at the company. This passion and drive finally got him thrown out from his own company. Sales were low, and the company was failing. Steve blamed Sculley (CEO) for this, and wanted him to resign from the company. His charisma had won the love and adoration of many Apple employees, and this gave him the determination to overthrow Sculley from his position. This led to his removal from any position with direct control of the company, and was left as the board chairperson only. After his resigning from Apple, he went to Europe to develop Apple II. This did not deter Steve from achieving his goal in life, building fantastic products and a great company. He had the determination of continuing to develop the Apple. This displayed an incredible change in his attitude. It was all not about him, but the company he started and how he could help it to flourish. He believed that one had to think strongly about his/her inner values because that is what was crucial.
Steve teamed with five other employees from Apple to form a new company, NeXT that made computers. He also resigned as Apple’s chairperson. Although he was passionate about his job, leadership was still a problem in this company because he wanted everything to go his way or else he would not follow. For instance, after designing the powerful NeXTSTEP operating system, they made a deal with IBM to have the operating system installed in their PCs. When IBM presented the 100-page contract to Steve for the OS licensing rights, he threw it to the trashcan and insisted on having a 5-page contract that appealed to him. IBM let his design one.
While at NeXT, Steve was able to buy a hardware and software studio. He paid 10 million US Dollars to George Lucas instead of the initial 30 million US Dollars that he was to pay initially. This purchase illustrated his headship by use of insight, tolerance and negotiating ability. This expressed the strength of his charismatic leadership that would be seen when he went back to Apple. This studio led to the formation of Pixar, which was the largest digital animation innovator.
Pixar also suffered from Steve’s undecided management but it was salvaged from failure after collaborating with Disney. Steve’s risk taking negotiations and confidence enabled him land a deal that led to his success far beyond his dreams.
Steve’s company NeXT made a tremendous move after development of a new operating system. In 1996, Apple wanted an operating system to make Apple a flourishing computer and thus made negotiations with NeXT to have their operating system. Apple designated Steve the role of the special adviser of the company and bought NeXT for 10 US Dollars per share. Later, Steve was elected Apple’s interim CEO.
Steve was back to his usual criticizing and patronizing ideals, but this time round, he was sophisticated after gathering much in the last 13 years. He suggested re-pricing of the stock options with the aim of boosting staff morale. This made everyone work to a stock-related bonus. He then formed a vital coalition with Microsoft. He understood a significant union with the company was a bonus to Apple since they could not maneuver through a Microsoft that dominated in the world. Steve’s leadership approach had changed, and there was a drastic change in the operations of the company. Within half a year, Steve had taken full control of Apple and converted it into a profit making enterprise again. Apple’s market share in the U.S. rose from 3% to 8%.
Steve focused on creation of a small number of products exceeding the market demand such as laptops and desktop computers. He formed the best tech support center in the industry. He made a hallmark in the music industry through the invention of the iPod, the best MP3 player in the universe. He significantly contributed to the phone industry through the development of the iphone. During his second tenure at Apple, he was still brutal, and employees would still tremble in his presence, but the only difference was the ability to allow other people to exercise control over their areas of specialization and accommodate ideas from other people in the company.
Through identification of purpose in his life, Steve Jobs became an outstanding leader. He believed that he got his motivation from love, faith, and death to enable him to make all the decisions he made. Steve gave a speech to a graduating class at StamfordUniversity on June 12, 2005. He narrated three of his life stories that gave him a firm base for all that he did and explained his passion for life.
The first story was a concise synopsis of his life which he called to connect the dots. Steve dropped out of college after six months from his admission, and only attended the classes that were of interest for him, such as typography. In typography, one could not connect the dots looking forward; you had to connect the dots looking backwards. One had to trust that the dots would connect in the future. This marvelous design in typography led to the development of the Mac computer which was the best ever designed. One has to trust his/her destiny, inner voice or life. Steve always used this approach because he believed that it never disappointed him, and it made a difference in his life.
The second story he narrated to them was about love and loss. His love for Apple made him become disappointed after his firing. However, he did not give up and went on to start NeXT and Pixar. If he had not been fired from Apple, none of these companies would have started. It is also the time that he met his wife Laurene. They married and had three children together. He believed one had to find what he/she loves to get satisfaction in life.
The third story was about death. Steve emphasized that one should live each day as if it were the last day in one’s life. One will not think of losing something remembering that he/she is about to die. Thus, there is a reason to follow your heart. He concluded his speech by the wish he had always made for himself, "you stay hungry, you stay foolish."
Initially Steve used his charisma and perfectionism to control and command people, but after he had gone back to Apple in 1996, as the CEO, he used the charisma to lead by letting others work with him. This has contributed to the success of Apple up-to-date.
Steve Jobs leadership tactics are very instructive for any leader to learn from. The mistakes and failures of a person contribute immensely towards their future. They help in shaping the destiny of one’s life. As a leader, one has the obligation of listening to those under his/ her authority and let them have a say in the making of decisions and their implementation process. This is because success is a matter of teamwork.
In 2003, Steve Jobs was diagnosed to have a pancreatic cancer. In 2004, he underwent surgery to eliminate the tumor. In 2009, his health started deteriorating again, and this time, a liver transplant was done. He died on October 5, 2011 at his California home.