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Leadership Style at Apple. Inc -
May 4th, 2011
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL; NYSE: AAPL; previously Apple Computer, Inc.) is an American multinational corporation that designs and markets consumer electronics, computer software, and personal computers. The company's best-known hardware products include the Macintosh line of computers, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. Apple software includes the Mac OS X operating system; the iTunes media browser; the iLife suite of multimedia and creativity software; the iWork suite of productivity software; Aperture, a professional photography package; Final Cut Studio, a suite of professional audio and film-industry software products; Logic Studio, a suite of music production tools; the Safari internet browser; and iOS, a mobile operating system. As of August 2010, the company operates 301 retail stores in ten countries, and an online store where hardware and software products are sold. As of May 2010, Apple is one of the largest companies in the world and the most valuable technology company in the world, having surpassed Microsoft.
Established on April 1, 1976 in Cupertino, California, and incorporated January 3, 1977, the company was previously named Apple Computer, Inc., for its first 30 years, but removed the word "Computer" on January 9, 2007, to reflect the company's ongoing expansion into the consumer electronics market in addition to its traditional focus on personal computers. As of September 2010, Apple had 46,600 full time employees and 2,800 temporary full time employees worldwide and had worldwide annual sales of $65.23 billion.
For reasons as various as its philosophy of comprehensive aesthetic design to its distinctive advertising campaigns, Apple has established a unique reputation in the consumer electronics industry. This includes a customer base that is devoted to the company and its brand, particularly in the United States. Fortune magazine named Apple the most admired company in the United States in 2008, and in the world in 2008, 2009, and 2010. The company has also received widespread criticism for its contractors' labor, environmental, and business practices.
“iPledge allegiance to the Apple by the genius of Steve Jobs, and to the Quality for which it stands: one Fanboy under Tech, Indivisible, with Creativity and Style for all.”1
This ode to the CEO of Apple exemplifies the influence and charisma extreme fans of Apple products (the so called “apple fanboys”) attribute to Steve Jobs. However, apparently he is hated with similar eagerness by others, exemplified by the excistence of a “we-hate-Steve-Jobs” petition site2. So, who is this person that creates such extreme emotions?
Steve Jobs is a co-founder of Apple Company in 1976 (with a childhood friend Steve Wozniak)3. He was forced to leave the company in 1985, after internal power struggles, and returned twelve years later. Meanwhile, he had very successfully led the Pixar animation studios4.
Apparently, Steve Jobs is, despite his success, or maybe therefore, a controversial individual. Maybe a first approach to answering why this is can be found in a Harvard review blog entry by Bill Taylor: “So In terms of the impact his products have had on the world, Steve Jobs represents the face of business at its best. And yet, in terms of his approach to leadership, Jobs represents the face of business — well, if not at its worst, then certainly not as something worth emulating.”5
We will attempt to analyze his leadership style and his traits based on the information available to us:
What is charisma? In Dubrins book on leadership he suggests that charisma “involves a relationship between the leader and the people being led”6. He furthermore points to the importance of “management by inspiration” as he calls it and he point to the different communication styles of a charismatic leader7. In essence, charisma is a key aspect of leadership, as Dubrin discusses.
Steve Jobs is famed for his ability to give speeches and captivate the audience’ attention8. He is able to captivate his employees and audience with the ability of an evangelist. In this respect we can observe that he posses the charismatic abilities that Dubrin demands by communicating his ideas using metaphors and analogies and storytelling9.
Interestingly, when presenting the new Apple product “iPad” he would sit down on a couch as some of us would have at home and create a scenario that helps the viewer and listener to imagine a Sunday-morning scene at home, using this new product while reading a paper. Jobs then also started by opening the webpages of an American newspaper. By creating these stories in our head he communicates the advantages of his products most efficiently.
He is a gifted speaker with an uncanny ability to confound his employees and the public with an almost evangelistic delivery (referent power10).
Jobs charisma is largely dependent on his deep knowledge and understanding of the technology he is immersed in (expert power11). Jobs technical knowledge might not be that of his engineers, however, Jobs has been the founder of Apple together with Wozniak, and together they developed the very first hardware. Certainly Jobs understanding of the technologically possible, combined with a visionary gift help him to develop his visions and then efficiently communicate them, for execution, to his employees.
His charisma enables him to whip up the enthusiasm of his employees (job involvement) to achieve more by doing seemingly impossible tasks, and also convince customers to buy Apple products.
His charisma type could be described as being personalized12. This means in accordance to Dubrins explanation, that one serves primarily own interests and exercises only minor restraints on the use of power. In Jobs case this means that he does not only motivate by story telling but also by force. Jobs is described by some as being manipulative, dishonest, and boorish13.
An indication for this can be found, when he says, for instance: “My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better. My job is to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways and get the resources for the key projects. And to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better, coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be.”14 He wants people to follow him, expects obedience and much of it seemingly out of the self-interest, since working at “Apple” is what he considers a valuable goal in his life15.
In conclusion, we can say he is a visionary type who communicates his visions well in this story telling fashion16. This vision, and the way that he can communicate it is the main attribute that makes Jobs being perceived as Charismatic.
Because of his “manipulative” behavior he is considered by some of his employees as autocratic. His behavior in meetings for instance is described as being rude, authoritative and obnoxious17.
Dubrin explains the importance of consideration and, what he calls, initiating structure18. Considerations stands for the degree that a leader offers emotional support, while structure is the way work is organized, i.e. by schedules, orders, guidelines etc. “Getting the job” done is highest on their priority list.
Because of his quest for perfection, Jobs has domineering presence which makes some of the employees fear him. This would let us assume that his consideration level is rather low (else he would care about peoples fear and try to counteract it) and his initiating structure level appears rather high, as we saw in the former paragraph on “charisma”, when we saw him saying “My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better. My job is to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways and get the resources for the key projects.”19
However, in his later years, he shows more warmth and less vindictiveness towards his employees. In fact, a current rating of approval by his employees shows Jobs to get a 90% approval rating20. Nevertheless, it is not at all clear that this rating is based on him being softer on people today or simply on people’s admiration for him due to his success.
Autocratic versus participative
Jobs seems to micromanagement at Apple. Jobs admits that there are an incredible amount of up to 100 individuals reporting directly to him21. As mentioned above, he is perceived as autocratic. The fact that so many individuals report to him directly is representative for his will and eagerness to hold all the strings in his hands. Total control is certainly the basis for this leadership.
Dubrin describes an autocratic leader as one who tells “people what to do, asserting themselves, and serving as a model for team members”22. In contrast, a participative leader would be interested in hearing everyone’s opinion and integrate them into a group-decision either in a democratic way (let a vote decide), a consensus finding manner (strive for an agreement of compromise) or consultative (consult with all group members, then decide)23.
We assume that the amount of Jobs’ participative leadership is low. Anecdotes rumor that he is a rather rude participant in meetings and extremely impatient24. This behavior certainly does not contribute to people wanting to voice their opinion and participate. In contrast, Dubrin explains that a participative leadership style demands for “teamwork approach” where the leader does not try to dominate the group25.
From the documentary “The triumph of the nerds” we may conclude that his humility levels are very low, bringing his personality in conflict of the requirements for a participative leadership style26. This documentary has Jobs talk about some of his less successful episodes, blaming others for the losses.)
At the same time Jobs is being described as entrepreneurial: “Jobs may be a multibillionaire, but that hasn’t cut into his work ethic. He brings an entrepreneur’s energy to tasks many CEOs would see as beneath them”27.
Dubrin defines an entrepreneur as someone with a strong will for achievement and a sensible risk taking, high degree of enthusiasm, tendency to act quickly on opportunity, being impatient, visionary, amongst others28. From the above discussion we have seen already, that Jobs can be described as being enthusiastic and a visionary, being impatient and having a strong will for achievement. Additionally, Jobs has taken risks and seized on opportunities many times in his career, for instance when leaving Apple (though being forced to) and leading Pixar to success, just to come back to Apple some years later and saving the day for a company in dire straits at the time29.
His continued entrepreneurial spirit is also shown by the fact, that he repeatedly introduced products to the world that revolutionize the entertainment industry, and the way entertainment media is distributed (e.g.: the iPhone and iPod as media devices, and iTunes as distribution channel).
Dubrin defines a transformational leader as one who “brings about major, positive change for the group, organization or society”30. As we just heard, Jobs has transformed several companies over the years. He has transformed Pixar into a success story31.
He has all the necessary attributes to be considered one, based on some requirements that Dubrin mentions32: he leads by example, he practices empowerment, he has a vision and as mentioned he can be perceived as charismatic.
However, he appears to lack the humane qualities of a transformational leader, which are also mentioned as a prerequisite for a transformational leader by Dubrin33, namely: emotional intelligence, personal encouragement, building trust (Apple is famous for its secrecy, even admitted by Jobs himself: “It is generally not Apple’s policy to trumpet our plans for the future; we tend to talk about the things we have just accomplished”34) etc.
In asking “why” someone strives for power, Dubrin explains two major motives, the personalized and the socialized power motive35. In Jobs’ case neither seem to fit completely. The personalized power motive would require the striving for status, money and luxury, something that is hard to pin on Jobs. Socialized power motives on the other hand would require the use of power for the greater good, or to help others.
We may leave the description of his motives to himself, by citing his words:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice; and the most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary”36.
His motives appear selfish, but without the typical requirements of the personalized power motive. It would possibly be fair to assume that power is not his driving force, at least, when we trust his own words, but rather that for him, power is something that is a necessity for what really drives him: achievement in itself.
Personality traits of effective leaders
Dubrin mentions several character traits for an efficient leader37. We want to briefly mention them an state what we feel is true for Jobs from the above discussion:
Self-confidence: intimidatingly high
Humility: incredibly low. (The documentary “The triumph of the nerds” can be used for reference38. This documentary has Jobs talk about some of his less successful episodes, blaming others for the losses.)
Trustworthiness: probably low, if the mentioned secrecy he exhibits in dealing with the world outside the company is in any way a reflection of how he deals with flow of information within the company (which is likely, since many projects remain incredible enough, secret until they are unveiled, like exemplified in the recent introduction of the iPad39).
Authenticity: true authenticity is based on self-reflection, which requires a degree of humility we can safely assume from the already analysed not to be found in Jobs.
Extraversion: his self-confidence may at first be mistaken for extraversion, however, extraversion in a socially interested way appears not to be extractable from the above analysis.
Assertiveness: the description of how he runs meetings and the aggression with which he motivates his employees speaks for a high degree of assertiveness.
Enthusiasm: his speeches and his entrepreneurial behavior indicate a large degree of enthusiasm.
Sense of humor: he never exhibited it, in case he posses it.
Interestingly, in general Jobs personality traits would not be characterized as the traits of an effective leader. In a way, he is far from a classical “text-book” example, as Dubrin for instance describes it. Nevertheless his charisma, self-confidence and passion for work overshadow all his negative characteristics thus making him one of most successful CEO’s of the decade.
When Steve Jobs returned in 1997 to the company that he co-founded, many doubted whether Apple could ever reclaim the industry leading status it once had. All of the romance and magic was gone from Apple’s lineup of Macintosh computers, which had disintegrated into a hodgepodge of confusing names and model numbers. However, a series of key business decisions helped return Apple to the public eye and to profitability, and today Apple — measured in terms of market capitalization — is one of the largest companies in the world. Steve Jobs deserves much of the credit for this, and in interviews and public appearances throughout the years, Jobs has done much to explain the business philosophy that has made his management of Apple so successful. These are the eight rules that you should follow to duplicate Steve Jobs’ success in business.
A Business Needs a Great Product
“My philosophy is that everything starts with a great product.” — “Newsweek,” 1985
Everything in business comes down to the product. You might have everything else lined up for your business — great people, a great domain name, memorable logos and slogans, but if you don’t have a product with real “wow” factor, stop putting money into your business until you do. It is never too late to do things right.
A convertible MacBook would never have had the iPad's success.
Customers Do Not Know What the Next Big Thing is
“Customers can’t tell you about the next breakthrough.” — “Newsweek,” 1985
Customers don’t know what the next big thing is, because it hasn’t been released. As a follower, the most that your company can achieve is second best. When customers wanted a convertible MacBook, Apple was busy creating the iPad. It blindsided the industry and created a brand new product category. Apple has a 90-percent share of the tablet market, and everyone else is playing catch-up. Henry Ford said, “If I had asked customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse.”
Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal
“We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” — “Triumph of the Nerds,” 1996
In the words of Pablo Picasso, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Some point to Apple’s appropriation of the graphical user interface pioneered at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) as evidence of this, but what he was actually referring to was the fact that the members of the Macintosh team came from all walks of life. They were painters, musicians and scientists, and each had unique life experiences that could be reframed and added to a unique product. Of course, getting a hand from Xerox PARC didn’t hurt Apple, either.
Design Products, Not Concepts
“Real artists ship.” — Attributed to Steve Jobs by Andy Hertzfeld and Steven Levy
Apple doesn’t spend a lot of its time or money designing flashing concept products, because it is wasted effort — no one will ever buy them. Xerox PARC invented the graphical user interface. They could have been the next IBM, Microsoft and Apple rolled into one, but they aren’t. Why? Because they didn’t ship. At the end of the day, your genius idea will get your company nowhere if you don’t ship.
Kill Good Ideas and Nurture Great Ones
“[Focus] means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.” — “Fortune,” 2008
The Apple Newton was one of the world’s first PDAs. It was an excellent product for many applications, and there are still Newton owners out there who love their devices to this day. However, one of the first things that Steve Jobs did after returning to Apple was killing the Newton. It was a good idea, but Apple had plenty of good ideas and was failing. Steve Jobs wanted to concentrate on just a few great ideas. Ex-members of the Newton team went on to design the software for the iPod, which became a massively successful product. Without killing the Newton, there may never have been an iPod.
Be Passionate About Your Work
“The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.” Stanford University commencement address, 2005
Steve Jobs is almost universally thought of as one of the most inspiring and charismatic business figures in history. Every person in a leadership role wants to be charismatic, and the first step in becoming a charismatic leader is to be enthusiastic about what you do. Real — not forced — enthusiasm is tangible, and transfers naturally to others, who cannot help but become more enthusiastic themselves. This leads to a more synergistic team.
Expect the Best from Your People
“My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better.” — “Fortune,” 2008
If you manage with the goal of becoming your subordinates’ friend, they will take advantage of you and will not perform to their full potential. Steve Jobs has a legendary temperament as a manager, sometimes to the point of inspiring fear among his employees. He demands that his employees do great things, and will make them do exactly that. Although not every manager can get away with Jobs’ storied tantrums, you would do well to take a page from his book and set yourself apart from your employees. Be their leader — not their buddy — and establish excellence as the only acceptable result.
Great Design is a Complete Package
“[Design is] not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” — “The New York Times,” 2003
Do you remember what it felt like to use an iPod for the first time? The iPod wasn’t the world’s first MP3 player — it was just the first to combine great looks with an interface that you knew how to use as soon as you picked it up. It just worked. Ten years later, no company has a legitimate answer for the iPod. When designing a product, remember that a flashy appearance is just one part of what needs to be a cohesive whole. There is no aspect of a product that is too small to do right.