According to Taylor (2009) of the Harvard Business Review, Steve Jobs, "for all of his virtues, clings to the Great Man Theory of Leadership -- a CEO-centric model of executive power that is outmoded, unsustainable, and, for most of us mere mortals, ineffective in a world of non-stop change." Taylor may be right. After all, Jobs is renowned for his eccentric yet egocentric leadership style. But whatever Jobs is doing seems to be working. As Kahney (2008) points out, "When Jobs retook the helm in 1997, the company was struggling to survive. Today it has a market cap of $105 billion, placing it ahead of Dell and behind Intel. Its iPod commands 70% of the MP3 player market. Four billion songs have been purchased from iTunes. The iPhone is reshaping the entire wireless industry. Even the underdog Mac operating system has begun to nibble into Windows' once-unassailable dominance; last year, its share of the U.S. market topped 6%, more than double its portion in 2003… It's hard to see how any of this would have happened had Jobs hewed to the standard touchy-feely philosophies of Silicon Valley. Apple creates must-have products the old-fashioned way: by locking the doors and sweating and bleeding until something emerges perfectly formed." It is precisely Jobs' managerial style that enables Apple to succeed.
Jobs also meets the four established functions of management: leading, controlling, organizing, and planning. The controlling aspect is what Jobs is famous for. Control does not just mean watching over company operations like a hawk. The controlling function of management also means that the CEO controls the company so that the organization meets goals and objectives. Without managerial control, a company like Apple would fall apart. A leadership strategy that is too loose might risk falling apart at the seams before meeting shareholder expectations. Jobs is also known for being "a notorious micromanager. No product escapes Cupertino without meeting Jobs' exacting standards, which are said to cover such esoteric details as the number of screws on the bottom of a laptop and the curve of a monitor's corners," (Kahney 2008). Job's behavior as CEO of Apple fits Dumler & Skinner's (2004) description of managerial control: that which makes sure that the organization's actual performance conforms to its planned performance objectives. Another way Jobs is an effective controller is by watching over the acquisition of new talent at the level of upper management. According to Jobs, "the real issue for me is, Are they going to fall in love with Apple? Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself. They'll want to do what's best for Apple, not what's best for them, what's best for Steve, or anybody else," (cited by Morris 2008).
As CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs is also adept at organizing: one of the four functions of management. According to Dumler & Skinner (2004), a manager creates and appropriate organizational structure and defines roles and relationships within the company. Steve Jobs does exactly that by creating the tight hierarchy and strict controls over employee behavior. As the Workplace Democracy (2010) organization points out, "Apple is known for its top-down, hierarchical structure" in which managerial control is crucial. The way Jobs organizes the Apple Corporation seems out of touch with the rest of Silicon Valley. However, the rigid hierarchy and guarded secrecy with which Apple operates are keys to the company's success. Kahney (2008) calls Jobs' methods "radical opacity." Employees are sworn to secrecy and hardware and software divisions are cordoned off. The departments are segregated so that a company pass will not open doors to other sections of the campus, and cheating is punishable with prompt employee dismissals. "Signs warning NO TAILGATING are posted on doors to discourage the curious from sneaking into off-limit areas," (Kahney 2008). According to Kahney (2008), "Apple's relationship with the press is dismissive at best, adversarial at worst; Jobs himself speaks only to a handpicked batch of reporters, and only when he deems it necessary."
Although jokingly compared with a terrorist organization because of its "cellular" and top-down organizational structure, Apple does seem to have a model that works (Kahney 2008). The third function of management is leading, which Jobs does seem to do admirably well. A leader is more than a manager; a leader must inspire and motivate employees. It may...
Thus, "Apple creates must-have products the old-fashioned way: by locking the doors and sweating and bleeding until something emerges perfectly formed," (Kahney 2008). Steve Jobs does not always behave like an autocrat, either. His managerial style is at times decidedly democratic. For instance, Jobs himself states, "my job is to move it around, just see what different people think, get people talking about it, argue with people about it, get ideas moving among that group of 100 people, get different people together to explore different aspects of it quietly, and, you know - just explore things," (cited by Morris 2008). Jobs has been accused of being a "great intimidator," who causes employees to fear for the security of their jobs (Kahney 2008). At the same time, Apple employees have pointed out that Jobs does motivate employees to achieve collective goals. Kahney (2008) claims that Sutton's 2007 book, The No Asshole Rule, spoke out against workplace tyrants but made an exception for Jobs. "He inspires astounding effort and creativity from his people," (cited by Kahney 2008). Although Jobs has been known to bring employees to tears, many believe "He was almost always right," (Kahney 2008).
Finally, planning is a keynote of managerial success. In fact, Jobs plans Apple's next moves so well, that many employees will not know what is coming next. "Even Apple employees often have no idea what their own company is up to," (Kahney 2008). Interestingly, Ahmed (2011) notes that Jobs denies using market research or external consultants when developing new products. Instead, when planning for future products and new market opportunities, Steve Jobs simply looks around and spots consumer needs. Jobs once stated, "We all had cellphones. We just hated them, they were so awful to use," (cited by Ahmed 2011). Jobs plans more like an inventor than a CEO, allowing new product development to follow a consumer- and user-friendly model. The trademark Apple software-hardware integration model is also a reflection of Steve Jobs' effective product planning. Kahney (2008) claims that the Apple model "locks consumers into a proprietary ecosystem." This is true, but it also ties into Jobs' other managerial functions such as control and organization. Control, organization, leadership and planning are all made easier when all aspects of production including manufacturing of chips is done in-house.
As the CEO, Steve Jobs operates at the highest level of the organization, and one that demonstrates both horizontal and vertical specialization (Dumler & Skinner 2004). Dumler & Skinner (2004) also point out the special skills that managers must have, including technical, analytical, and decision-making skills. Jobs' background and his experience heading Pixar proves his technical skills and his thorough knowledge of the products he is making. Jobs' analytical skills are borne out by his ability to anticipate consumer needs and translate those needs to new products. As a decision-maker, Jobs can best be analyzed in terms of the stellar performance of his company. Jobs has deft computer skills, so even if his people and communications skills may seem to be lacking at times, the CEO can still succeed at his own game. One of Jobs' great strengths is his ability to see the big picture, too: which is what Dumler & Skinner (2004) call a conceptual skill.
Dumler & Skinner (2004) outline Mintzberg's theory of managerial roles. Steve Jobs can be analyzed in terms of these roles, which include interpersonal roles, informational roles, and decisional roles. Job's role as figurehead of the company as well as corporate leader highlights his interpersonal role. As a spokesperson for Apple at press conferences and other high-profile media events, Jobs serves in the informational role by disseminating only the information that he wants known about the company. Furthermore, Jobs clearly serves a decisional role. He is the entrepreneurial head of Apple, as he founded the company and led it to its current pinnacle of success. Like all corporate managers, Jobs serves multiple roles both inside the organization but also outside of it.
Steve Jobs has "brash management skills" that may seem off-putting to some outsiders and insiders as well (Nusca 2009). Some of Jobs' decisions are controversial, such as not telling fellow members of the board about his liver transplant (Nusca 2009). However, all the steps that Steve Jobs takes seem to promote the well being of Apple. Jobs is essentially doing his job, even if he does piss people off along the way. Jobs' methods run contrary to the culture of Silicon Valley…
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