Five Leadership skills that made Steve Jobs transform Apple.
Leadership Skills in a transformational leader.
Scientific Essay 2014 7 Pages
Manish Abraham IOT 5032
Leadership and Innovation in Organizations
The concept of leadership
Leadership is considered as the relationship between a leader and a follower. It is an ability by which a person achieves the goal by motivating the followers to do what is needed by excluding the power of influence9. In business the leader also guides the follower to explore new ways to develop new opportunities in order to achieve targets and sometimes bring something new to the market10. In this paper I will explain the main traits of leadership seen in Steve jobs, and would try to show how it shaped Apple over time.
Who was Steve Jobs?
Steve Jobs cofounded Apple Computers in 1976, he was thrown out in 1985 and came back when the company was nearing bankruptcy in 1997 and before he died in 2011 he turned apple into the most valuable company in the world [1,4,5,6,8,12]. He not only transformed the core business of personal computing, but also changed the world of music, phones, tablets, digital publication, retail stores and animated movies6.
There are a few lessons which we can learn from him when it comes to leadership. His personality itself was integral to the way he did business.
He had a tendency to get rough on people, but on the other hand had a special attachment to the company. When in an interview he was asked which was the most important creative and innovative product he had made. It was expected he would say iPad iPod or Mac, but instead he said “The Apple Company”.
Qualities and personal traits
1. Focus: When he came back to the company in 1997, the company had changed a lot. It seemed that the company was experimenting on a lot of Products, he literally told to stop and focus on a few needs of the customer, he said “Deciding what not to do is as important as looking at what to do”, “Focus on a few products because others would drag down the company” 2.
He had personally ingrained this quality from the Zen training. One thing he normally did was filtering out the topics which he considered as a distraction13.
2. Simplicity: Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, simplicity that comes from conquering and not just merely ignoring complexity is the best way to get deeper into a product.
3. Taking responsibility End to End: His personality was very controlling, but it was driven by a passion for perfection, as he felt a need to make perfect products and took responsibility. He created an ecosystem which was like a pleasant garden, many of his company employees believe that “sometimesit is nice to be in the hands of a control freak”. Unlike other leaders, he focused more on the product than making profit as he used to say “if you focus on making the right product and profits would follow” 5. He though had a very different way of motivating his employees by focusing on the products. He was also opposed to the common trend of market study as he said caring about the customer was very different from asking them what they wanted and hence used to create a sense of belonging with the product. He used to focus on making people follow their intuition (e.g. iPod was made to solve their own problem and intuition; once you build something for yourself you always put in your best), he used to set practical examples.
4. Push for Perfection: In order to find the perfect thing, there were many occasions when the team had to fall back to the drawing board, but this way of pushing for perfection made him Apple stand out. On many occasions he used to give the employee a relation with the product an example can be seen when he said that an artist gives attention to every single piece of detail and even made the team sign the Mac from inside since he said an artist signed his work, though he was considered impatient, petulant and tough with people around him, this way of making the employee attached to the product also made him inspirational and gained their loyalty [1,4,7,8,11,12,13].
5. Face to Face Communication: He was a strong believer that creativity comes from spontaneous meeting, and random discussion, this can be seen the way the offices were designed in an account an employee says he had met so many people once he brought in change whom he had not seen for years. This was even said by Steve in an interview where he says a lot of innovation is lost if the company building is not innovative enough, it created the right innovation culture, this is one of the reasons why apple has invested in a five billion $ worth new office building which was the last piece of work Steve was working on before he died 3. Steve had the same values throughout his career, and the same values were imbibed in the company.
One of the values that he was able to imbibe in the employees was that love what you believe and do that, keep on looking and live life as if it was the last day of your life 2. Now people may argue why work then? , but as I see he used to invest a lot of time in recruiting the right people who had a similar vision and also inspired people to follow his vision.
Another key learning that we can learn from Steve jobs is that leadership is about having a vision and articulating that vision, there should be a common understanding of the vision among the employees, this concept of having a common vision is very important. He made people do what they wanted to do and also felt that a great manager is one who is an individual contributor, a leader should be contributing towards the change and this was the most effective way to motivate the employees to foster an innovative culture 4. The Macintosh project shows how effectively a task force can innovate when given its freedom, and also explained the importance of recognizing people. Then it is up to the management and leadership. It is very important to have a talented pool of people and not lose them.
One of the reasons he was brought back in 1997 was not because he was the best manager or programmer, but because he was a symbol of innovation in a culture that had lost its innovation in time. He was a symbol, not just for the consumer or the shareholder but the worker within Apple. And that is a learning lesson that the symbol or a hero in a company shapes the culture and drives it towards innovation or away from innovation. Another trait of leadership that we can see is that of connecting the right things. Steve jobs himself was not the best designer or the best program or the best manager, but he was good at connecting the right people and motivating them to work on his vision and showed them how it was their vision also. This can also be seen in his personal experiences and products where he linked the calligraphy lessons to the first Macintosh and connected things.
Another quality that we observe in Steve jobs was that he was a great corporate storyteller; this can be seen in any of those presentations where he informed, educated, inspired and entertained, all in one presentation, which was very different from any other corporate leader.
People who know what they are talking about share their thought and don’t need a PowerPoint.
Another thing that Steve jobs said was if you can help the customers reach their dream you can win them over, so he built a sense of relationship with the customer. He understood and tried to explain that customer generally doesn’t care about a company's product, but all they care about is themselves, their dreams, their ambitions, and their hopes.
He made the company dream bigger, he made the people see geniuses in themselves and made them believe in what they wanted, and gave them courage to defend their ideas, because he understood that these ideas could change the world. This was something he also kept in mind while hiring people.
Leadership when you shape a company is very different than the leadership in an established company. Steve jobs learnt a lot from the experience of wilderness when he was thrown out of the company and came back as a better leader. Every Industry is different and I see that three things which he implied which could be implied in any company are Simplicity, Focus and Passion. Finally a leader should also have a quality of inspiring the people to work on a common vision to shape the organization over time.
References and Bibliography
1. 10 Leadership Tips from Steve Jobs - Forbes. 2014. 10 Leadership Tips from Steve Jobs - Forbes. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/susankalla/2012/04/02/10- leadership-tips-from-steve-jobs. [Accessed 13 January 2014].
2. 25 Wise, Inspiring Steve Job Quotes That’ll Make You Want To Change The World | Thought Catalog. 2014. 25 Wise, Inspiring Steve Job Quotes That’ll Make You Want To Change The World | Thought Catalog. [ONLINE] Available at: http://thoughtcatalog.com/christopher- hudspeth/2013/08/25-wise-inspiring-steve-job-quotes-thatll-make-you-want-to-change-the- world. [Accessed 15 January 2014].
3. Apple releases revised plans for its 'spaceship' headquarters | Apple - CNET News. [ONLINE] Available at: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-57581319-37/apple-releases-revised-plans- for-its-spaceship-headquarters. [Accessed 16 January 2014].
4. Faculty Insight: The Leadership of Steve Jobs | Rutgers Business School. 2014. Faculty Insight: The Leadership of Steve Jobs | Rutgers Business School. [ONLINE] Available at: http://business.rutgers.edu/news/faculty-insight-leadership-steve-jobs. [Accessed 11 January 2014].
5. Great Leadership: Why Steve Jobs' Detail-Orientation Mattered as Much as His Vision | Inc.com. 2014. Great Leadership: Why Steve Jobs' Detail-Orientation Mattered as Much as His Vision | Inc.com. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.inc.com/geil-browning/leadership- communication-structured-thinking.html. [Accessed 10 January 2014].
6. iGenius How Steve Jobs Changed The World - YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdRvV1hlYfQ . [Accessed 13 January 2014].
7. Isaacson, W. (2012). The real leadership lessons of Steve Jobs. Harvard Business Review, 90(4), 92-102.
8. Jobs, S. (2005). You’ve got to find what you love. Commencement address at Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA.
9. Kort, E. D. (2008). What, after all, is leadership?‘Leadership’ and plural action.The Leadership Quarterly, 19(4), 409-425.
10.Hargreaves, A., & Fink, D. (2012). Sustainable leadership (Vol. 6). Wiley. Com.
11.Lessons in Leadership from Steve Jobs | Blog | Bloomberg L.P.. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/now/2013-10-25/lessons-in-leadership. [Accessed 15 January 2014].
12.The Big Lesson about Leadership From Steve Jobs - Forbes. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jackzenger/2013/08/22/the-big-lesson-about-leadership-from- steve-jobs. [Accessed 12 January 2014].
13.The Zen Of Steve Jobs: A Closer Look - YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxfDI70ODu8 . [Accessed 11 January 2014].
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