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Free «Steve Jobs: The Power of Leadership» Essay Sample

Introduction

Nowadays an effective management and leadership change is very important in the business world. The majority of companies around the world consider the importance of an effective leader for their further success. There are different functions of effective leaders. For example, they should be able to develop changes and adapt them appropriately with regard to organizational, economic, management, ethical, and other concerns of the company.  There are many arguments concerning similarities and differences between leadership and management. There is no need to identify these two entities, but it is better to treat leaders as inspirers of innovations and managers as performers of those ideas. Effective leadership is based on different features and not only professional features are important, but also personal characteristics matter a lot. Employees are members of a team who are able to implement innovative and creative ideas of a leader. Consequently, there is a need for stable and trustful relationships between them. The paper will discuss Steve Jobs, his leadership style and define what made him a successful and effective leader.

There are a lot of opportunities in the modern business world. Presently, global society blurs boundaries, and it is very interesting for modern businessmen, managers, and leaders to function in this challenging modern context. The Internet is a perfect medium for modern transactions, and it can be a new and promising field for the implementation of innovative ideas of talented leaders. In fact, effective leaders and their main features can be described as follows: Honesty enables them to be credible; therefore, their people listen to them. The level of personal responsibility is high and impressive. Also, it should be noted that relations between leaders and their team should be based on trust, credibility, cooperation, and mutual support. Moreover, effective leaders keep their promises and believe in their subordinates.

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Of course, there is no doubt that even the most effective leaders can make mistakes. However, one of their strongest abilities is to show that they realize that they have made a mistake and do not to blame people around them. They are not really oppressive to their people, and they are able to recommend taking some actions for their team members.

The most appropriate features of leaders are confidence, initiative, determination, critical thinking skills, good communication skills, and good social skills. Managers are able to help leaders to implement their ideas into reality. Steve Jobs went through thick and thin before he became a successful businessman and a leader. Furthermore, his leadership lessons and management practices are taken into account by his contemporaries as examples to be followed by modern businessmen.

Apple Inc. for Jobs was a creative field for realization of his dreams and great talent of a businessman, manager, and a strong leader. Steve Jobs underlined in his interviews that he was a really happy person. Also, he said that it is necessary to be an optimistic person; otherwise no positive results are reached. Risk was a controversial issue for Jobs. He claimed that to found an enterprise is a rather risky activity, and the largest risks should be eliminated at once. To be an entrepreneur is to have an appropriate mind set for it; otherwise it is very difficult to solve different problems and to make right solutions. Jobs said that he had learnt the importance of self-reliance in his early childhood. For example, his grandfather told him that it was necessary to rely on oneself and support oneself by one’s own methods and strategies. There is no one around but you to fix a current breakage or to solve a current problem. Moreover, it is necessary to work with an open and creative mind. A constant search for new opportunities is a perfect option for solving potential challenges or reducing business hazards. Steve Jobs demonstrated his flexible management nature and his ability to adapt new strategies of leadership and management

Steve Jobs was a well-known perfectionist. In everything he did and accomplished, he always sought to be absolute best. As a result, he also expected that everyone working for his company would be as enthusiastic as he was and meet his standards. It is no wonder that, at times, Jobs was called a “tyrannical perfectionist” (Morrison 2009, p. 5). Like Jobs’ leadership itself, his perfectionism was irreplaceable. Without Jobs’ perfectionism, there would have been no iPod, iPhone or Mac (Morrison 2009).

Jobs’ perfectionism encouraged and guided thousands of engineers working on Apple products. Moreover, through Jobs’ perfectionism, consumers eventually got products that really served their needs (Morrison 2009). Contemporary reporters and scholars in leadership studies are almost unanimous in that perfectionism was one of the definitive features of Jobs’ leadership style. While Morrison calls Jobs a “tyrannical” perfectionist, Lyons (2010) chooses to describe him as “relentless perfectionist whose company creates such beautifully designed products that they have changed our expectations about how everything around us should work” (p. 1).

However, nothing is perfect in this world, and even perfectionism by itself cannot be immaculate. The perfectionist model of leadership promotes high ideals and requires risky endeavours, but it may also result in an unpredictably high prevalence of avoidable failures (Rosenbaum, Rosenbaum & Stephan 181). Even in education, professors that set the stage for pursuing high ideals among students also expose these students to elevated risks of professional and learning failures (Rosenbaum, Rosenbaum & Stephan 2011, p. 181). However, it seems that Steve Jobs was able to tame the wildness of perfectionism and turn it to work for his own and his company’s benefit.

Apart from perfectionism, the personal and professional arrogance of Steve Jobs has long been a matter of hot debate. Back at the very beginning of his company, Steve Jobs was strong enough to persuade Steve Wozniak to invest $1,000 in a new venture (Bielazka-DuVernay 2008, p. 4). They used Wozniak’s money to create one hundred printed circuit boards to sell them later to computer hobbyists (Bielazka-DuVernay 2008, p. 4). Researchers generally agree that, as Apple’s founder and CEO, Steve Jobs used his persuasion skills to promote his leadership and corporate agenda.

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According to Gwendolyn Jordan Dungy (2011), who also cites “The Magician”, which is an editorial from The Economist, Jobs’ persuasion was powerful enough to make people love what had previously been impersonal (p. 10). Even early in his career, Jobs was claimed to emit a ‘reality distortion field’, which reflected, confirmed, and further reinforced his persuasion power (The Economist; Dungy 2011). Steve Jobs’ power of persuasion and perfectionism could be readily compared to fire, meaning that he had a burning desire to do what he loved and could do, but necessarily with the focus on the future (Dungy 2011).

However, Jobs’ power of persuasion came up with intimidation and fear. He could easily make people cry even for minor issues. No one could predict whether Jobs would flatter them or call names. As a result, Jobs’ persuasion could sometimes be quite destructive. Jobs was once heard saying that people would never respond to love, but fear would keep them focused on their goals (Kahney 2008). Jobs was confident that intimidation as a method of persuasion would be effective and motivational. However, even now, years after Apple’s sustained success, it is difficult to decide whether being persuasive through intimidation is a good or bad thing. Nevertheless, it is clear that Steve Jobs’ power of persuasion was uniquely combined with remarkable influence and unprecedented arrogance.

On the basis of numerous conversations and interviews with Jobs, the following lessons of leadership can be positioned as crucially important factors that influenced activities and performance of his team. A strategy should be based on service, not gadgets, which implies a constant change in technologies. The second relevant strategy is to be obsessing over customers. Jobs was focused on long-term strategies in his company. Moreover, customers’ needs were one of the main concerns for the company. Further on, managers of the company were focused on relevant policies of friendly internal changes. Also, Apple does not discard the opportunity of failure, because the process of innovations’ implementation is always challenging and a complex one. Starting from the 90s, Jobs believed that the modern computer age is innovative, and there is a need to take into account potential innovative changes and novelties.

Arrogance is a distinct feature of Jobs’ leadership style. Scholars in leadership studies and Jobs’ partners and colleagues commonly agree that arrogance was one of the most distinguishing and important features of Steve Jobs’ leadership style. The important role of arrogance, especially in companies that have just started, cannot be easily dismissed (Alsop 1986, p. 98). From the very beginning of his company, Steve Jobs had an arrogant assumption about the future of the computer market, which, eventually, led him through achievements and failures (Alsop 1986).

The effects of arrogance on Jobs’ leadership were double-fold. On the one hand, Jobs always knew he was the smartest guy in his company and he never wished to conceal the fact (Romain). Jobs always wanted to persuade his customers and partners that Apple was better than everything else in this world (Romain). Jobs’ arrogant ego led to making customers believe that Apple products were truly irreplaceable and perfect.

On the other hand, Jobs’ arrogance had another, dark side. Jobs’ arrogance was claimed to prevent him from getting along with other employees (Lusted 2012, p. 23). The problem was so huge that he was often compelled to work nights only (Lusted 2012, p. 23). That was the best time when Jobs could invent new ideas and did not have to contact with people. Jobs’ arrogance made his employees believe that Apple was infallible, which was one of the biggest mistakes they made in their history (Alsop 1986, p. 98). For example, because of Jobs’ arrogance, Apple failed to persuade business customers that Macintosh was an appropriate choice for doing business (Alsop 1986). Jobs’ arrogance persisted, and the entire company consistently believed that they could never do anything wrong until, during the Super Bowl, they allowed themselves to depict business buyers as lemmings running after IBM (Alsop 1986). Most probably, that was the turning point in the realization that arrogance could actually do more harm and be ruinous to the company.

 
 
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Yet, even now, those who knew Steve Jobs better than his employees did continue to believe that arrogance is extremely important for effective leadership. For instance, Jean-Louis Gassee, the leader of one of Apple’s general partners, Allegis Capital, confesses that he knew Jobs as an arrogant leader, but arrogance in the context of leadership is somewhat undervalued (Blendstrup 2007, p. 24). Gassee believes that leaders do not need to be pleasant in order to be effective (Blenstrup 2007, p. 24). In case of Jobs, even arrogance could not stop him from achieving his corporate goals. Even though employees had diverse opinions on their leader, he moved towards his goal and was extremely successful in his corporate decisions.

Needless to say, Apple employees and partners have different opinions and perceptions of Steve Jobs, both as a personality and a leader. Some of them regard him as an inspirational figure, whereas among others, Jobs earned a reputation of being an extremely demanding leader (Poeter 2011). The latter based their perceptions on Jobs’ commitment to arrogance, perfectionism, intimidation, and fear. This is why a lot of people have portrayed Jobs as being “an obsessive control freak” (Poeter 2011).

Jobs was claimed to be difficult to work with and had a reputation of being a hot-tempered manager during his life (All About Steve Jobs). In the course of time, however, Jobs’ leadership changed, and employees and partners no longer described him in such rigid terms. One reason for this is that, years before his death, Jobs interacted with fewer employees (Poeter 2011). His health problems kept him from staying on the campus for long (Poeter 2011). Moreover, as the company expanded, Jobs moved his sales personnel to Cupertino, California (Poeter 2011). After his death, employees could not dare to express their disagreement with Jobs’ leadership style.

Even during his life, many people regarded Jobs as magical and life altering (Carr 2011). For instance, Lee Nadler, the founder of Sherpa Marketing, told the story of her meeting with Steve Jobs. She said that she suddenly realized that, contrary to her expectations, Jobs was not an icon but behaved like a human (Carr 2011). Fred Cook, the CEO of Golin Harris, remembers how he and Steve Jobs were discussing the idea of helping Pixar to build a new better image (Carr 2011). He remembers Jobs as an open, amiable, and friendly man who liked going into detail and being scrupulous in everything he was doing. Also, Brett Lovelady, the Chief Instigator of ASTRO Studios, described Steve Jobs as a regular guy, just like thousands of engineers and other employees working for his company (Carr 2011). He never hesitated to attend a gym that he had built next to his office; that was probably the time when Jobs could think over his ideas that later came true one step at a time (Carr 2011).

All these ideas and perceptions (a) suggest that Steve Jobs was a good leader and (b) raise the question of whether it is worth being rude and arrogant to be a good leader. To a large extent, through his persuasion, slight arrogance, and perfectionism, Steve Jobs was able to make Apple, Inc. successful and attain his reputation of a strong leader. Jobs had a unique ability to envisage changes in the consumer market and use them to adjust his products to unique needs of consumers (Godwin 2012). Jobs was not an engineer, but he sought to make technologies easy to use (Godwin 2012). As a leader, Steve Jobs took a raw idea and developed it in order to show other companies how well they had to work. He had a strategic vision, showmanship, and unprecedented attention to detail, which made his products virtually perfect (Godwin 2012). As a result, he inspired and sustained fanatic loyalty in his customers and partners. He used the emotional spark among consumers and turned his technologies into a matter of personal touch. Everyone having an Apple product certainly feels that it is extremely personal.

“Yet nothing really explains, let alone justifies, the fact that Jobs was so often an unrelenting jerk” (Godwin 2012). He was ironic and sarcastic and was able to intimidate and scare his employees. In his arrogance and perfectionism, Jobs did not fit in any old leadership models and could not be described in usual terms (McKay 2012). Thus, it is worth being rude to be as successful as Steve Jobs? Certainly, it is not. Steve Jobs was a unique type of personality, and arrogance and intimidation were an essential part of his leadership style. Jobs’ rudeness and roughness were accompanied by his unique ability to be inspirational (Bilton 2012). Perhaps, a good leader does not need to be pleasant in order to be effective, but it is always possible to consider the best features of Steve Jobs and use them so that other people do not suffer the effects of fear and intimidation, as they are working towards a common goal.

Conclusion

The name of Steve Jobs is forever carved into the history of leadership. The contribution made by Steve Jobs to the expansion of his company cannot be overestimated. Through his persuasion, slight arrogance, and perfectionism, Steve Jobs made Apple, Inc. successful, and he is considered as a strong and effective leader. He was equally arrogant, rude, and visionary. He persuaded people through intimidation and fear and could easily flatter them. More often than not, Jobs’ employees did not know what to expect from him. As a result, Jobs found it extremely difficult to build productive relationships with his employees. Yet, in case of Jobs, arrogance, perfectionism, and persuasion were the three features that actually made him a unique leader. Rudeness and roughness were accompanied by inspiration and motivation.

However, this does not mean that being an effective leader means being a rude leader. It is better to consider the best features of Steve Jobs and use them so that other people are not scared by intimidation and rudeness as they are working towards a common goal. Real successful leaders should treat others the way they want to be treated. To my mind, this is the most important principle of a humane attitude to employees.

Successful relationships in business are based on the ability of a leader to find a golden mean. On the one hand, it is not necessary to treat employees like friends and feel a great sympathy with them. It is better to treat them like a labour force that consists of individuals, separate talents, who should be treated in a unique and special way. Of course, it is really hard to find this perfect balance and it is better for a leader to be kind, polite, sympathetic, and so on. There are always many opportunities to cultivate those features and remain a reliable and successful leader who inspires people and does not oppress them. Therefore, education and training of a successful leader means a lot, but another important factor is the leader’s ability to show their individual and peculiar features, such as understanding, humanness, patience, and so on.

   

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