Leadership and Organizations: Bill Gates and Steve Jobs
The theories of leadership date way back to when dynasties existed and people were led by kings. The leader took control and made decisions whenever disputes arose. The question of leadership qualities may not have been all that important then, but people still considered some to be better leaders than others. It would be prudent to begin by giving the fundamentals of the terms that are most crucial to this discussion; leadership and management. The two are commonly used synonymously, but they indeed are different. Although all leaders are managers, not all managers are leaders. The end of management marks the beginning of leadership, because whereas management is "concerned with stability and the best way to get the job done," leadership places more emphasis on change and innovation (Lussier and Achua, 2009, p.17). This text explores the theories and the differences and similarities between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs' leadership styles and approaches.
The earliest theories mainly focused on the unique qualities that leaders were thought to possess, and were aimed at finding a leadership style that would be applicable to all situations. The modern theories, however, incorporate additional factors such as level of skill and situational aspects (Lussier, 2009).
Trait theories were the earliest theories of leadership. They largely focused on a person's individual qualities (Lussier, n.d., p.20). They postulated that people led because they possessed inborn leadership traits such as aggressiveness, self-reliance, and intelligence.
The behavioral theories focused more "on what the leader actually did on the job" (Lussier, n.d., p.19). They attempted to depict the behavioral differences between ineffective and effective leaders.
The Contingency Theories
These assert that the style of leadership chosen is based on the situation, the followers, and the leader himself. These theories, therefore, emphasize "the importance of situational factors, including the nature of the work performed, the external environment, and the characteristics of followers" (Lussier, n.d., p.20).
Essentially, trait and behavioral theories are referred to as the universal leadership theories, as they attempted to identify a universal leadership style. People, however, on realizing that the leadership style chosen at any time is dependent upon the situation, shifted from the universal to the contingency theories of leadership. The contingency theory forms the basis of the various leadership styles.
A style of leadership refers to "the combination of traits, skills, and behaviors managers use in interacting with employees" (Lussier, 2011, p.333). Like theories, leadership styles have evolved from the traditional trait, to the current situation-related styles. Between the 1930s and 40s, there existed three basic styles of leadership; the democratic, autocratic, and the laissez-faire styles. The leader's degree of supervision and control was highest in the autocratic, and lowest in the laissez-faire style (Lussier, 2011).
These styles, however, lacked the situation factor. With the adoption of the contingency theories, adjustments for the same had to be made. This text will explore the following six modern leadership styles; visionary, coaching, democratic, affiliative, commanding, and pace-setting (Murray n.d.). These styles will then be used as the basis for comparing Bill Gates' and Steve Jobs' leadership practices.
The visionary style of leadership is most effective in situations that require the leader to give direction. Unlike management, leadership is about influencing people. Visionary leadership has to do with getting employees to focus on the organization's goals, and letting them choose the best way to achieve them (Murray n.d.). This leadership style is more or less charismatic. It encourages employee-participation through innovation, thereby inspiring their enthusiasm, loyalty, and performance (Lussier, 2011).
The coaching leadership style is almost similar to the visionary. In this case, however, the leader coaches the employees towards achieving the set goals (Murray, n.d.). This is more of transformational leadership. It is about bringing forth change, learning, and innovation that is more or less continuous (Lussier, 2011). However, this style is only effective if the employees have the initiative to learn; otherwise, it may be seen to undermine their confidence (Murray, n.d.).
The affiliative style, like the other two, seeks to ensure goal-realization. It, however, does so by encouraging teamwork, and harmony. This style works best when the leader seeks to restore broken trust or enhance communication...
However, the use of the same should be limited, as it may encourage poor performance and mediocrity (Murray, n.d.).
Democracy works together with affiliation. It involves aligning team activities with the organization's vision and goals. It incorporates the aspect of rewards and punishments. This style, therefore, is more or less transactional, and ensures stability of the organization's culture (Lussier, 2011).
Pace-setting involves setting high performance standards. Goleman (as cited in Murray, n.d.) describes this style as one in which the leader "is obsessive about doing things better and faster, and asks the same of everyone." Although pace-setting may lead to improved employee performance, it could also undermine their morale, and give a false impression of failure.
Commanding is the least effective leadership style. It mainly involves criticism, and significantly undermines employee morale (Jackson and Bosse-Smith, 2011). Commanding disregards the needs of employees, and is seen as a style that puts the organizational goals above the employees' needs (Lussier, 2011).
Effective leadership limits the use of the command-and-control, pace-setting and commanding styles, as they impact negatively on employee morale and performance. Additionally, their continued use is likely to ruin the leader-employee relations, resulting in miscommunication and mistrust which impact negatively on productivity and performance.
Participatory styles, on the other hand, promote innovation, enthusiasm, and enhance employee motivation (Winkler, 2010). All these go a long way in the achievement of organizational success.
Bill Gates and Steve Jobs
Gates and Jobs have in the past achieved success by employing leadership styles that are apparently totally different. Jobs hugely made use of pace-setting and commanding. His employees described him as "temperamental, aggressive, tough, intimidating, and very demanding" (Lussier and Achua, 2009, p.25). He was known to set high standards and lay verbal attacks on under-performers. However, Jobs was also known to reward hard-work and above-average performance (democracy). It has been argued that Jobs has achieved success due to his high innovative skills, and not his leadership style. I am of the view that both contributed to every bit of Jobs' success. He was known to act and talk when the situation called for nerves of steel. After all, commanding is acceptable if there is need for an urgent turnaround. Perhaps there would be no Apple (as we know it today), if Jobs did not act the way he did. Bill Gates, on the other hand, is a visionary who attaches a high degree of significance to the needs of his employees. He is considered more of a participative leader. Both are, however, visionary leaders. They formulate a goal, develop a "strong personal commitment to that goal, communicate the goal to others, and display self-confidence" (Lussier, 2011, p.337).
Effect of Organizational Factors
Gates and Jobs' leadership, like is the case with most leaders, is influenced by the situation and the styles that they, and their employees prefer.
The leader influences his own leadership through his preferred style. This preference is dependent upon his expectations, experience, values, knowledge, and background. These have an effect on the leader's behavior and personality, which in turn have an effect on his leadership style. This explains why "some leaders tend to be more autocratic and others more participative" (Lussier, 2011, p.340).
The employees' (followers') attitudes also influence the style adopted by the leader. If the employees portray initiative, willingness and ability, then the leader is likely to adopt a more participatory approach. On the other hand, if the employees are seen to under-perform, and show no readiness and ability to learn, then an autocratic approach would be appropriate.
Thirdly, the leadership style chosen is influenced by the situation. The situation incorporates factors such as the organizational culture, the level of technology, and the organizational goals (Lussier, 2011, p.340). Internal organization culture refers to the beliefs, values, behaviors, and symbols held by the members of an organization (Schein, 2010). Leaders may choose a style that maintains the stability of their organizations' culture if; the current culture is deemed appropriate, and if the employees are unwilling to change their beliefs (prefer the status quo). This would call for participative styles. However, if the leader wishes to change the culture, then he could opt for more autocratic styles.
External organizational culture, on the other hand, has to do with the larger industry in which the organization belongs (Schein, 2010). A leader's choice of style is influenced by the practices of other leaders within the industry. The external culture, therefore, incorporates the concept of interdependence among organizations of the same industry. For instance, since Bill Gates and Steve Jobs operate within the same industry, then the style chosen by either is, in some way, influenced by the other's.
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