21st Century Leadership

The late Steve Jobs was the co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc., a technological giant that has greatly impacted the world. The CEO led the company to great success during his days. The company produced products such as MacBook, IPod, IPhone, and other iconic products that revolutionised technology. The devices have changed the world of computers, music and wireless electronics. He founded his company in the 1970’s; he resigned at some point and later joined as the CEO in 1996. From that time, he led the company to become one of the most profitable corporations in the U.S. This paper will discuss the leadership Steve Jobs provided to Apple Inc. and the management style that led to the success of the company.

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Steve Jobs’ Leadership Style

As the CEO of Apple, Jobs had a unique leadership style that, combined with his genius mind, led to the success of the company. People often described Steve Jobs as arrogant, dictatorial, and mean. Many scholars criticize his managerial style, but for Steve it worked perfectly. He said that if the style was bad, he would have recorded a high employee turnover rate. His style yielded results that were considerably different from the conventional ones. Some authors derived certain knowledge from Jobs’ leadership and drew a conclusion that his managerial style was situational. They concluded that Steve would not have succeeded if he had not adopted the style. Many of his employees wanted to be around him constantly instead of quitting their jobs. The leadership style was lauded for increasing productivity among the employees.

Most of the employees and contractors confessed that Steve would ask them to accomplish tasks that usually took many days in the shortest period of time possible. When people complained, he encouraged them by showing them how the tasks could be accomplished. The leadership style of Jobs was successful because of the personal qualities that he had. He had a clear vision, the ability to inspire trust, and was passionate about the company and its employees. Jobs knew where he wanted the company to go, and what he wanted it to accomplish. He could communicate this vision clearly to the employees, such that the vision was shared among them. Unlike other CEOs, Steve Jobs was not motivated by a big paycheck; instead, he was motivated by the success of the company and its employees. Through various innovations, the company became one of the biggest technological giants in the world. The success was a source of inspiration for him and his team. Although he was arrogant, his employees never judged him for that; instead, they judged him by his competence in design and marketing. The competencies were a source of inspiration to the employees, and this led to the success of the company.

Organizational Structure and Culture of Apple

Apple’s organizational culture was structured in a way that ensures the company maintained its leadership position. The company’s organizational culture significantly helped in attaining the intended goals. It was defined by various features that fit well together in the organization. Apple believed in achieving top notch excellence in business. The company was keen on selecting outstanding employees, so it chose the best candidates. Employees were expected to be productive and meet the expectation. An mphasis was put on the critical areas of product design and development. The employees were supposed to perform well in these segments. Steve Jobs was famous for firing the employees who did not perform to the expectations. He had a policy of keeping only the best employees. Creativity was another characteristic of the organization culture of Apple. Steve Jobs believed in developing solutions through simple design. He felt that designing products that involved simplicity required creativity. Apple adopted originality, which helped them attain its goals of simplicity in its products. The areas of product design and development required a lot of creative power. Employees were selected for their creativity. The other feature of the organization culture was innovation. Apple has been famous for innovations that have made an impact on the targeted areas. Originality was at the centre of the business, and that is why ingenuity was important to them. Employees were trained and motivated to be inventive in their ways. They were also encouraged to contribute to the process of product design and development. Innovation has led the company to be awarded several times. In a bid to maintain its position as the market’s undisputed leader, Apple highly encouraged ingenuity.

Additionally, Steve Jobs developed a culture of secrecy within the organization. The company kept big secrets. The move was necessary to safeguard the business from the theft of intellectual properties and proprietary information. Upon joining Apple, employees were introduced to the policy of keeping company secrets. Through this culture, the business has survived the threats of business espionage and employee poaching, which often have adverse effects on businesses. What’s more, Apple’s culture was known to be combative. Steve Jobs was mostly responsible for it as he required all employees to have what it took to work for Apple. That resulted in only the best employees working for the company. After his death, the company has, however, changed to be moderately combative and more sociable.

Apple’s approach to the human capital management and employees development was unique to them. The recruitment focused on employees who were hardworking and could be committed to the company. The company was known to employ renowned leaders and performers from across industries which could properly perform given tasks. The company used economic rewards to retain its employees, unlike employee development approach many companies took. Employees who were creative were given opportunities to attain wealth. On talent management, the company allowed employees to learn about themselves instead of offering training. The employees researched on various roles and, while carrying out various functions, learned and perfected their skills. The company did not develop the employees’ careers, but instead encouraged the workers themselves to take care of their professional development. Employees were also encouraged to have high self-reliance and develop their skills. The company was known for its agility as it shifted focus from one area to another successfully. The agility was critical in developing talent. The employees were encouraged to be ready for something different every time after completing a project. The company motivated them to prepare for something big. The employees were always ready for something completely new. The employees were eager to do different things instead of dwelling on one activity for long. Through this approach, the company developed a more innovative and motivated pool of human resource.

Remarkably, Steve Jobs was able to communicate his vision to his employees. He is known to have pictured revolutionizing the computing world, and this can be seen in the products that were designed and developed by Apple. The CEO would communicate his vision to employees at all levels. The communication was a source of motivation to the employees. The company also applied a communication approach known as the Direct Responsible Individual (DRI). The employees were not only aware of the vision but also how their actions related to the vision. The direct communication of the vision and projects to employees made them successful. For instance, Steve Jobs held regular meetings with groups which gave junior designers an opportunity to know whether they were progressing in line with the overall purposes of the company. This way, they would get direct feedback on their projects from the CEO.

The author of Steve Jobs’ Biography wanted to know why he was inclined to be tough on employees; Jobs told him to look at the success of the company. He added that the people working around him were all smart and that if any of them felt coerced, they would have easily found employment elsewhere, but they chose to stay. He added that it was the reason they got amazing work done. During his time, Apple impacted seven industries, making it one of the most innovative and valuable companies in the world. The company changed the fields of computing, music, phones, tablets, animated movies, retail stores, and digital publishing under Jobs’ leadership. His vision, drive for innovation, and good communication of the vision enabled the company to be successful.

Steve Jobs had the customer experience at the centre of his innovations. The products that he developed were based on how he or his close friends would feel using that product. He advocated for products to be simple and provide the best user experience. While his employees were working on design, they made sure they upheld the quality that ensured the best experience interacting with the product. The company has earned customer loyalty through this quality. In 2000, Steve Jobs had an idea to create an Apple hub, where device syncing would be possible. This was achieved in 2010. Further, he developed an IPod that can hold many songs, and then developed ITunes for MacBook to make accessing music easier for users. This approach reveals how the company was customer centred.

Lessons

Leaders need to aim for the best. Steve Jobs believed in working with the best and producing the best. He was known to fire anyone who failed to live up to their expectation. He believed that non-performers could cost the vision of the company. From his point of view, only the best employees brought the best-intended results. Steve Jobs believed that his employees should deliver nothing but the best. He thought that the leaders with the best employees produced the best products that would, in turn, win customers and achieve the best returns for the company. An important quality that leaders can learn from Steve Jobs is to learn to use face-to-face communication. Steve Jobs believed that engaging his employees directly made them generate even more ideas. The employees are motivated and perform better than expected. Steve Jobs said that meeting employees and expressing satisfaction with what they were doing made them come up with better results than he expected. Communication of a vision and guiding workers to achieve it directly leads to greater productivity of the employees. The third quality of Steve Jobs that leaders can learn from is to focus on the product more than the profits. When he was designing Macintosh, he said that he wanted his team to make it ‘insanely great.' He did not push for greater profits unlike other leaders. He believed that great products would bring good fortunes for the company. His employees learned from this experience and were motivated to contribute their best ideas to the development of great products. Leaders can motivate their employees to attain the best by encouraging them to focus on the products.

In conclusion, though Steve Jobs’ leadership style was authoritarian, it was best suited for the success of Apple. His style was essential to making the company successful as it became. Leaders in the 21st century have a lot to learn from this visionary. They can borrow from his best practices to lead their organizations to success.

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Jul 24, 2020 in Management
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