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Steve Jobs and Leadership

Leadership is a crucial component of evolution, thus, it stays a popular subject for various studies. There is no complete agreement about what features should be considered obligatory for a good leader, though, most of the researchers distinguish such traits as confidence, creativity, the ability to inspire and motivate, together with good communication skills and openness to learning.

Steven Jobs, a former chief executive officer of Apple Inc., is a classic example of a remarkable leader. His products are adored by millions. For over 30 years computers, music, mobile phones, and movies have all been transformed by his genius. It is almost unbelievable that one person could have affected such a large swath of American culture and industry. Read more about this topic on Steve Jobs’ Leadership Functions and Styles Essay Sample

Jobs possessed everything to lead people. He was highly intelligent, extremely confident, and unbelievably persuasive. He always had his own strong opinion. However, he was not too proud to ask other people for advice when needed. Steven Jobs was electrifying, and his insane energy gathered other strong people around him. All they needed was his motivation. And Jobs really inspired.

There is one simple answer to the question why the issue of leadership attracts so much attention: leaders possess power, leaders are influential. Companies run by strong managers are, usually, successful companies. Armies led by wise commanders are more likely to win the battle.

Despite the numerous studies related to the topic, there is no single definition of what exactly is leadership. According to researchers:

Leadership is that process in which one person sets the purpose or direction for one or more other persons and gets them to move along together with him or her and with each other in that direction with competence and full commitment. 

At the same time, Batten explains leadership as “a development of a clear and complete system of expectations in order to identify, evoke and use the strengths of all resources in the organization the most important of which is people”. Anyway, both definitions include two key components: people who lead and people who follow.

It has always been a matter of heated discussions as of what distinguishes a leader from others. Various theories have been developed by sociologists to define the instrumental traits of a good leader. The scholars have emphasized such qualities as intelligence, creativity, and charisma, general ability to constantly learn, managerial skills and assertiveness. These features are typical for many famous leaders of the present and past. On the contrary, the situational theory assumes that a person may reveal hidden leadership skills under certain circumstances. According to this theory, no certain model of a leader exists as different situations require different characteristics to be demonstrated. Moreover, the third theory suggests that leadership is a transformation or a process. Hence, anyone can obtain the needed skills by learning them.

Charisma and self-confidence seem to be the common features of all leaders. However, they are not always enough to be a good chief. As it follows from the above-mentioned definitions, leadership is very much concerned with the ability to cooperate within a team. It has been noticed that only those individuals who manage to win the trust and respect of their subordinates become successful leaders. On the contrary, efforts to control the circumstances with power usually result in failure; hence, highly developed diplomatic skills are also substantial. Moreover, a real leader must work as part of the team and team welfare has to be his main objective.

Furthermore, a leader is someone who motivates people, the one who inspires to aim high and attain that aim. His high proficiency in the field and bright ideas must be an example for others.

Finally, a feature which defines a person as a leader is the ability to handle the new and unexpected situations. It is impossible to predict all circumstances, but the behavior is something that is always possible to keep under control. A true leader not only reacts positively, but also helps members of the team feel optimistic about the situation.

Despite the wide variety of bright examples to choose from, there is a person whose extraordinary style of leadership deserves special attention. Steven Jobs, most widely recognized as the co-founder, chairman, and chief executive of Apple Inc., has greatly influenced the way computers, movies, music and mobile phones look like today. In November 2010, Forbes ranked him number 17 on their list of “The World's Most Powerful People”. One month later, the Financial Times named Jobs a person of the year. Equalized by many to the ones like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, Jobs has convincingly proved that human genius has no boundaries. A very remarkable man, extremely smart, spellbinding, mesmerizing – he possessed all the best features of a great leader of people.

Jobs was probably the most creative chief executive officer ever. The whole computer industry was revolutionized with his innovative Apple 1 technology in 1976. He didn’t, actually, invent the computer, but he was the first to make it available for the massive use. Moreover, using a combination of the iPod, iTunes, and the iTunes Store, he created the unified system that enabled to buy, share, and play music better than any other way. In total, Jobs’ name is mentioned in 323 Apple patents or patent applications ranging from computers and portable devices to keyboards, power adapters, sleeves, and packages. His real importance for Apple became evident in time of his absence between 1985 and 1997. For the first time, company was balancing on the edge of bankruptcy, and after 12 years, after Jobs return, Apple Inc. regained their former might.

Another critical feature, which characterized Steve Jobs’ professionalism best, was attention to details. He was a demanding perfectionist who endeavored to make his products as simple to use as possible:

For the iPod, Jobs’s Zen simplicity shinned through when he eliminated the on/off button. The device gradually powered down, and flashed on when reengaged… At the end of his career, Jobs rethought the television industry, so people could click and watch what they wanted. He dreamed up ways to make television simple and personal. 

However, what really made Steve Jobs special was his ability to make people hear what he says and get excited about it. His incredible, charismatic way of picking exactly the right thing to say at exactly the right moment inspired people like no one had ever seen before. Jobs’s surrounding included only the best professionals. He strongly believed in the potential of his team and supported them. On the other hand, his expectations were super high. So high, at times, that people just couldn’t stand the pressure and left the company. This is how a business journalist Joe Nocera (2011) describes his first impression of Steve Jobs:

The businessman I met 25 years ago violated every rule of management. He was not a consensus-builder but a dictator who listened mainly to his own intuition. He was a maniacal micromanager. He had an astonishing aesthetic sense, which businesspeople almost always lack. He could be absolutely brutal in meetings: I watched him eviscerate staff members for their “bozo ideas.”

The Steve Jobs I watched that week was arrogant, sarcastic, thoughtful, learned, paranoid and “insanely” (to use one of his favorite words) charismatic. 

Jobs never mellowed, even while being seriously ill. Moreover, his standards grew higher and higher. Steve has never been timid with his staff. He knew that he was a boss and felt very comfortable in that role; he enjoyed it. However, no one knew how to get the best out of people better than him.

Despite his controversial character and extremely high self-esteem, Jobs was a true professional. And, perhaps, one of the most underrated things about him was that he had the courage to change his mind. Besides that, he was not ashamed to ask for help in fields where he was lacking experience. For instance, when Apple needed software for their Macintosh, Jobs turned to another industry prodigy - Bill Gates. As a result, cooperation between the two computer giants lasted for 2 years.

Anyway, Jobs would not have reached such highs if he didn’t know how to face difficulties, because he did have to face them. In 1985, at the age of 30, he was fired from the company he made with his own hands. It was his first personal failure. Only few high-ranking executives have suffered such painful setbacks. Most would not have recovered. But Jobs did. For him it was just the beginning of the new era in his outstanding career. One month later he took 5 key Apple managers, and started a new project – NeXT, which was initially planned as Apple’s main market rival. However, the project didn’t meet Job’s expectations. And again, Jobs faced a tough choice: to abandon the computer or face bankruptcy. Jobs could be outrageously idealistic, but he could also be practical when he had to. Finally, Steve decided to remove his focus from computers to what makes them run – the company’s elegant operating system.

By the way, another one of Job’s post-Apple ventures was slowly coming to life. In 1986, he earned The Graphics Group from Lucasfilm’s computer graphics division (later renamed Pixar). The first film produced by Pixar, Toy Story, was released in 1995, with Jobs as executive producer and John Lasseter from The Walt Disney Company as creative chief. The movie immediately became a blockbuster, which meant that Jobs achieved recognition in his new role. Further successful cooperation with The Walt Disney Company resulted into releases of such office-box hits as Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters Inc. (2001), Cars (2006) and Ratatouille (2007).

Finally, in 1997, Jobs gloriously returned to Apple Inc. In 2001 he revealed to the world his new creation, and, as usual, it was revolutionary. This time it was iPod, and this time it was something groundbreaking, even for Apple.

Despite the numerous above-mentioned merits, there is still one not listed. Powerful makers are frequently lacking showmanship, being unable to introduce their products well enough. At the same time, a bright showman rarely produces anything good, thus, such a campaign is also destined to fail. Steve Jobs had a brilliant match: he made high-quality products and introduced them better than anyone else would.

In conclusion, it can be said that Steven Paul Jobs is a perfect example of a leader. Power naturally comes to him, and he knows how to use it properly. The company he started once in a garage is worth more than 2 billion dollars today. And it doesn’t matter whether iPod is better than Android or not: Steve Jobs’s place on pages of the world history is secure.

Publication: 16 February 9:18

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