Sample Essay on Effective Leadership: Steve Jobs

Effective Leadership: Steve Jobs

Leadership is one of the most important elements of success for any organization. A leader sets a vision for an organization and brings employees on board to not only share in the achievement of the vision, but also in believing and making it their own. There is not a universal leadership style that works for all organizations; each organization is unique in its own way within different industries, and therefore the leader must choose a style that works for the organization. In looking at effective leadership, Apple provides an exemplary example of an organization with capable leadership. Under Steve Jobs, the company rose to become the world’s most valued company, launching products that have tremendously changed the technology industry as it is. Not only did Jobs salvage the company from bankruptcy, he left Apple, at the time of his death, at one of the highest market valuation in the world (Isaacson, 2012; Randol, 2013). What however was Jobs’ leadership style and what organization structure and culture did he create at Apple? How effective was this leadership style and what can other leaders learn from him and his success at Apple?

Jobs style of leadership was a mixture of both his personality and his passion for perfection. At his return to Apple in 1997, Jobs stopped the company’s production of an array of products, but instead focused on only a few products that he was certain would be successful (Isaacson, 2012). His leadership style was therefore one that was focused on the vision of creating not only great products, but a great company as well.

Jobs additionally valued and encouraged teamwork. For Jobs, he knew that great products and businesses were a team effort and never a product of a singular person. For that matter, he pushed him team to work together towards the creation of the great products that Apple is known for creating. Through teamwork, Apple was able to revolutionize the music, publishing, online shopping, telephony and the portable computers markets by creating products such as the iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad, iMac and the MacBook (Isaacson, 2012).

Jobs leadership style also involved taking responsibility for every aspect of the company’s products. Thus, through the creation of an Apple ecosystem, Apple is able to control the connectivity of all its products with one another (Isaacson, 2012). Moreover, Apple takes responsibility of the product from its conception, through production and purchase by the user. Even more is that by controlling and taking responsibility for the products created by the company, users are able to have a delightful experience (Isaacson, 2012).

Apple stands as an innovation behemoth; this remains one of Steve Jobs’ leadership legacies. While iMac could not burn CDs as it was popular among PC users, through innovation, Apple, under Jobs created the iPod, iTunes and iTunes store that enabled people to not only buy music, but also share, store and play the music much better than it was possible on any device including the PC (Isaacson, 2012). Even after this, Apple launched the iPhone and later the iPad, products that changed the mobile phone and tablet computing markets.

Believing in, and pushing employees to do extraordinary feats was another leadership style used by Jobs. In what became known as Reality Distortion Field, Jobs pushed his employees, as well as his suppliers, to perform unrealistic feats (Isaacson, 2012). By pushing the people, Jobs got the job done and the customers supplied with the product. This also increased the employee and customer loyalty to the company, given the quality of the products from Apple.

Under Jobs, Apple’s organizational structure was one that involved all major decisions coming from the top (Lashinsky, 2011). Additionally, all communication also came from the CEO to the rest of the organization. Largely, the company had different divisions working separately, with each of the divisions responsible for specific elements of the company’s products. However, while each division had a head, there was a lot of collaboration between say the software and the hardware divisions (Lashinsky, 2011). With the death of Steve Jobs however, there have been changes in the company’s structure, with the new management pushing for more collaborations among divisions (Yarrow, 2013). Yet even with the changing structure, elements of the old structure remain in place. The company also lacks a definite corporate structure, and although each decision had to pass through the CEO, teams made up most of the decision-making organs (Lashinsky, 2011). Through such a make-up, it was therefore possible for the lowest ranking employee to share ideas with the CEO in both the current and previous structure, although the top-ranking personnel made, and still make the decisions, with information flowing from them to the teams through the team leaders.

Apple’s corporate culture hinges on responsibility. The company still has its previous organizational development in which each of the company’s employees knew and performed his/her role. This incorporates all the workers from the janitor to the highest-ranking personnel in the company(Lashinsky, 2011). Moreover, the company’s culture of secrecy, which is fundamental to its product unveiling, remains in place even after employees exit the company. Each project is therefore shrouded in secrecy, largely to ensure that competitors do not get an advantage over the company (Lashinsky, 2011).

Apple has one of the most advanced and intuitive human capital management and development. Apple University is the hallmark of the company’s human resource development, where employees are taught using the company’s case studies. Moreover, the company has a mentoring program in which rising talents are incorporated into the company’s executive discussions as a way of sharing with them the company’s workings and as a mentorship program in preparation for management positions (Lashinsky, 2011).

With a preference for in-house promotions, mentoring program, Apple University and pushing workers beyond the possible, Apple’s leadership has not only been able to enhance workplace productivity, but also pushed the company’s vision. Steve Jobs’ focus on three projects, iPod, iPhone and iPad, out of the man that the company had helped push the company from near bankruptcy to the most valued technology company (Randol, 2013). Moreover, before his death, Jobs appointed Tim Cook as his successor. Under Cook, Apple successfully launched the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, products that are currently doing well in the smartphone market. In fact, with just over three months since its release, the iPhone 6 Plus capture 41 percent of the total phablet sales in the U.S. beating Samsung Galaxy S5, which had 22 percent of the phablet sales (Prigg, 2013).

One of the most outstanding features of Steve Jobs was his petulance and impatience. According to Isaacson (2012), Jobs acted as if normal rules did not apply to him. While this can come as ethically wrong, Jobs obsession was with perfectionism, and proper running of products created by the company. For that matter, he pushed his employees, which in the end, enabled Apple to produce some of the most revolutionary and innovative products that have changed the technology industry.

Part of Apple’s success stems from the effective communication from the management to the low-level employees. By being able to talk to even the lowest level employees, Jobs ensured that there was effective communication, as well as communication flow from top management to team leaders (Lashinsky, 2011). Even more is that Jobs encouraged face-to-face meetings with top executives and discussed issues in informal meetings. He additionally designed the building to encourage collaboration and unplanned encounters as a spark for creativity (Isaacson, 2012).

Through pushing employees to perform the extraordinary, Jobs was able to not only gain employee, but also customer loyalty (Isaacson, 2012); research into customer retention puts Apple as the brand with the highest retention rate at 76 percent ahead of Samsung’s 58 percent (Evans, 2014). Moreover, Apple University, the informal meetings and the executive retreats were all part of the reasons behind the company’s successful products as employees were motivate towards the achievement of the vision set by the CEO (Lashinsky, 2011).

The rise of Apple to the helm as a technology company was because of Steve Jobs’ leadership style. Other leaders can therefore also use some of the leadership practices used by Jobs to motivate their employees and transform their companies. Most companies are rigidly structured and do not allow for teamwork and collaboration. Teamwork and collaboration allows employees to brainstorm over a problem and come up with creative solutions to the problem.

Many companies additionally focus on the profits the company can make from the products. With a focus on the profits, it is possible that a company could produce man products, which while selling, do not work for the customers. In the end, customers are likely to abandon the company’s products all together. However, by focusing on the company and the vision the company wants to achieve, leaders can help the company produce few but overly profitable products as was the case of Apple under Jobs.

One of the reasons for Jobs’ success with Apple was the launch of innovative products. Thus, although the PCs has left iMac behind with the capacity to burn CDs (Isaacson, 2012), Apple was able to surpass the PC with the launch of the iPod and iTunes. A leader should therefore be able to come up with game-changing products that set the company apart from its competitors. This way, the company becomes the industry yardstick (as Apple is in the technology industry) enabling the company to capture market share as well as gain customer loyalty.

Leadership is an important aspect of organizational success. A strong leadership ensures that an organization can remain focused on its vision, bring employees into sharing the vision as well as gain customer loyalty. As a leader, Steve Jobs stands out as a leader who was visionary and was able to sway employees and customers to the company. Under him, Apple accomplished great feats, and is therefore a pointer to other leaders that it is not enough to have a vision, but to share it with the employees, given that they form part of the company.












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