Leadership Lessons From Steve Jobs Steve Jobs Essay

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Leadership Lessons From Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was a transformational leader, both from a technological and human leadership standpoint. Having not only launched Apple but also saved it from bankruptcy when he returned in 1997, Steve Jobs showed a unique set of transformational skills that would set both him and his company apart globally more than any other technology-related brand. The intent of this analysis is to evaluate Apple Computer from the standpoint of Steve Job's major impact and influence on it, including a discussion of the three major business challenges that needed to be overcome for the company to succeed. The leadership style Steve Jobs relied on is also discussed. His role as a transformational leader is clear by how effectively he could communicate a product vision and mobilize organizations in the tens of thousands of people to accomplish them (Cheung, Wong, 2011). Third, his effectiveness as a transformational leader from a business and management standpoint is also assessed, specifically by his ability to motivate individual and group behavior. Finally the major impact Steve Jobs' contributions and legacy continue to make on the technology industry and the world are also assessed.

Steve Jobs And the Daunting Task Of Launching and Running Apple Computer

The founding of Apple Computer, its many new products including the Apple Macintosh and the development and launch of an entire series of MP3 players and smartphones in the iPad and iPhone series all serve as ample evidence that Steve Jobs fully understand how to create disruptive innovation using technology and marketing skill (Hopkins, 2011). Leadership theorists and management experts point to the dramatic turn-around of Apple Computer as ample evidence of Steve Jobs' transformational leadership skills (Strategic Direction, 2002). Apple today has a market capitalization rate higher than Microsoft. As of this writing the Apple market cap of $371.98B is larger than Microsoft at $220.8B (November 6, 2011). In the last months of his tenure at Apple Computer, health concerns continued to be raised (Maugh, Thomas, 2011) and the medical leaves of absence (Gobry, Frommer, 2011) led to predictions of the Apple stock price eventually dropping rapidly when Steve Jobs' retired for medical reasons or passed on. Now after his passing, Apple stock has stabilized, a further testament to just how effective his leadership and planning skills are at enabling greater growth and profitability for the company he began.

The first major challenge Steve Jobs had to overcome in launching Apple Computer was the conformity that pervaded computing in general and computer engineering specifically. He had to help his talented engineers break the mold of what they had been told was great product design, and center not on functionality of ease of production, but the user experience. As Steve Jobs worked to overcome this challenge, the culture of Apple began to mimic his personality and take on its traits. Highly nonconformist, focused on quick, brilliant results and exceptionally valuing disruptive innovation over the status quo, Steve Jobs went about defining a culture that would actively question conventional wisdom. The result was a culture that became known for its direct, blunt nature and pride that bordered on arrogance (Brashares, 2001). Overcoming this first major challenge of architecting a culture that could innovate quickly, Steve Jobs also believed his company was on a mission to bring greater value into the world. He asked John Scully when recruiting him from Pepsi: "do you want to sell sugar water the rest of your life or change the world?" (Hopkins, 2011). This captures the intensity and focus that Jobs had as does his quote "real artists ship"(Strategic Direction, 2002) shows just how focused he was on transforming Apple by changing its culture thoroughly at the engineer and designer level first.

The second major challenge Steve Jobs faced was how to create a supply chain that could manage the torrent of new product introductions and entirely new devices and materials he needed to build first the iPod, then the iPhone and finally the iPad and iPad2. All of these devices require an exceptional level of electronics integration and circuitry to work effectively. Jobs was perfectionistic about the approach about the approaches used to qualify vendors and their quality (Brashares, 2011). He also demanded absolute secrecy and confidentiality throughout his entire supply chain to ensure nothing would leak out regarding overall designs or requirements (Brashares, 2011). Finally his approach in managing suppliers was to concentrate on making them sign the most thorough Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) in the industry. All of these strategies Jobs reasoned were critical for keeping his designs and next-generation products secret until product introduction.

A third major challenge Jobs faced in running Apple Computer was getting software companies to write application programs first on the Macintosh and later on the MacBook Air and other PC platforms the company produced. The lack of software on the Macintosh at one point was so serious of a deficiency that corporations began to limit their use internally, even for graphics (Strategic Direction, 2002). Jobs however was undaunted and invested much time and millions of dollars in his software evangelism efforts to gain greater support for his PCs. The results were impressive within the first five years of a global evangelism effort: Apple at one point had more graphics and desktop publishing applications than the IBM PC (Strategic Direction, 2002). As with many of the challenges Jobs faced in making Apple a global force in technology, music and communications, this first major one of having software running on their systems could have either been a powerful catalyst for future growth or eventually led to the company becoming lesser known and eventually going out of business. All three of these challenges illustrate how Steve Jobs viewed difficulties as catalyst for future growth of Apple and himself.

Analyzing Steve Job's Leadership Style

Steve Jobs often said that his managerial style was formed more from the freedom to define his own curriculum and learning experience at Reed College first, and traveling through India, second (Brashares, 2001). While he took a nonlinear and highly unorthodox path through his academic career, dropping out of Reed College after a semester but still attending calligraphy courses and auditing other courses of interest, Steve Jobs' fascination with Indian and Buddhist cultures continue growing. When he returned to the Silicon Valley in the mid-70s, he began working at Atari and while there met friends who shared his interest in India. In 1974 he spent months traveling through the southern and central cities of India. His leadership philosophy and view of entrepreneurialism changed during this time period drastically. The experience also led him to remark that the trip to India showed him that inventor Thomas Edison did more to benefit humanity than any politician or political party (Strategic Direction, 2002).

His leadership style galvanized on how to make life more enjoyable, productive and meaningful for those around him. His transformational leadership style also showed a high level of emotional intelligence (EI) as Steve Jobs could quickly read situations and people, then make decisions to continue product development programs or not. Transformational leaders have the innate ability to persuade others in the validity and certainty of their visions of what an organization can become (Gregory, Moates, Gregory, 2011). Jobs was able to do this quickly with the initial team at Apple who created the first Apple IIs and later the Apple Macintosh. His focus on results and providing everyone with a very clear understanding of what their responsibilities and accomplishments were for the team also showed a very high level of transformational leadership as well (Hur, van den Berg, Wilderom, 2011). Most telling however is the strength of personal sacrifice Steve Jobs showed in each project her undertook, willingly staying up over 24 hours at a time to make sure a product shipped on time, or investing many hours of his own to absolutely make sure a product was as perfect as it could be (Strategic Direction, 2002). This level of personal sacrifice was legendary inside Apple and people realized if they were on a teams with him there would be many, many hours invested . He openly managed himself with a drive and passion he expected everyone in his company to have as well.

This single-minded, stubborn focus on results and driven direction was what Jobs was most known and respected for as a leader. He didn't create a totally egalitarian culture at Apple; however he did make a culture that is capable of producing a new product in three months or less if it has to (Strategic Direction, 2002). As Steve Jobs concentrated on the user experience inherent in his products and services, the global leadership philosophy he had showed this commitment clearly. Unwavering in his commitment to deliver exceptional products and stand behind them, Steve Jobs quickly became a prime example of transformational leadership.

Assessing The Impact of Steve Jobs on the World

Steve Jobs revolutionized the experiences technology users have with MP3 players, smart phones, computers and networks. His greatest contributions…

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