Steve Jobs Leadership Style

This essay will argue that Steve Jobs used all six distinct leadership styles explained by Goleman (2000) and this brought back Apple Inc. from the brink of oblivion and it into the most valuable company on the planet. To be able to reproduce the success of Apple Inc. we need to understand why Steve Jobs was such an effective leader.

I will show how Steve Jobs applied the following six distinct leadership styles during his time as CEO of Applied Inc.

“Coercive leaders demand immediate compliance. Authoritative leaders mobilize people toward a vision. Affiliative leaders create emotional bonds and harmony. Democratic leaders build consensus through participation. Pacesetting leaders expect excellence and self-direction. And coaching leaders develop people for the future.” (Goleman, 2000)

Steve Jobs was not born a perfect leader according to the Goleman leadership style but he was very open to learning lesson. A bit of background on Steve Jobs, firstly his widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, saw him as a “Learning Machine” and he learnt from his many and relentlessly applied those lessons but Steve always preference to talk about future rather then the past. Steve was always changing! (Tetzeil, 2015)

Steve Jobs had a coercisve style of leadership when he was CEO of Apple the first time round. We should not take this as a negative, this was the time Apple culture formed. This is where employees knew that perfection was important when working in Apple. When Steve came back to Apple as CEO employees knew what to expect to be able to work well with him and therefore he did not need to use that Coercive style as often to get the perfection he required. Tim Cook commented about Steve, he said Steve could then focus on his strength of  “… the ongoing business he cared about – marketing, design, and the project introductions”, (Schlender & Tetzeil, 2015, p. 80)

There was a noticeable change to Steve Jobs style of leadership during his second coming when he returned to the positon of Apple’s CEO. He had matured and as he grew more confident he allowed himself to be surrounded by strong, opinionated executives who felt comfortable to argue with him. During Steve’s time at Pixar he learnt to become open to the talent of others and to be inspired by their talents “…but he also inspired them to do amazing things he know he couldn’t do himself” said John Lasseter, they director of Toy Story and The Incredibles. (Tetzeil, 2015, p. 73)

Bill Gates said, “That is a really crash team that bounded with each other in toughness. I mean, you can point to every member of that team and say, ‘Okay, he earned his pay, he earned his pay.’ There’s no weakness in that team.” (Tetzeil, 2015, p. 74)  Steve chose a team that had passion and work ethics similar to himself but talents that he did not have. To build this executive team Steve applied the following three leadership style; Authoritative leaders mobilize people toward a vision. Affiliative leaders create emotional bonds and harmony. Democratic leaders build consensus through participation.

Steve Also learnt from Bill Gates about incremental change and this is where we saw software and hardware upgrades coming from Apples products. “Jobs did have a genius for synthesizing what Apple learned as its product line expanded. That’s what fed the perfection of iPod, iPhone, and iPad…” (Tetzeil, 2015, p. 76)

After Steve was diagnosed with cancer he exhibited they coaching leaders develop people for the future style. Tim Cook said Steve cared deeply about things, was very passionate and he wanted things to be perfect . “Steve cared deeply about the why of decisions… This is why he came up with Apple U. [University], so we could tain and educate the next generation of leaders by teaching them all we had been through, and how we had made the terrible decisions we made and also how we made the really good ones.” Said Tim Cook (Schlender & Tetzeil, 2015, p. 80)

Steve also showed pacesetting leadership expecting excellence and self-direction from Tim Cook. Tim Cook’s describes his conversation with Steve, “He [Steve] says, ‘You make all the decisions… You mean that if I [Tim Cook] review an ad and I like it, it should just run without your okay”’ And he laughed and said, ‘Well, I hope you’d at last ask me!’” (Schlender & Tetzeil, 2015, p. 82)

Most importantly Steve’s pacesetting leadership style he coached his team to make sure they do not just copy and ask “’What would Steve do?’, He abhorred the way the Disney culsture stagnated after Walter Disney’s death, and he was determeed for that not to happen at Apple.’” Said Tim Cook. (Schlender & Tetzeil, 2015, p. 82)

In conclusion Steve Jobs show all six leadership traits outlined by Goleman but showing any one behavior when needed. During hi early career when first forming Apple he showed the coercive style which as Goleman outlines is used in a crisis time when sales and profits are falling but also has the of creating a reign of terror and can get the CEO fired. (Goleman, 2000) This is exactly what happened to Steve Jobs. Steve came back to Apple as CEO with a toned down coercive style but he used it to drive make sure employees had a similar work ethic to himself.  The difference this time is he allowed his leadership team to drive the business while he focused on his own strengths in marketing. As Steve’s time as CEO evolved he used less of the top of the following list and more of the leadership skills down the list:

  1. Coerciveness
  2. Authoritative
  3. Affiliative
  4. Democratic
  5. Pacesetting
  6. Coaching

Every leader should try to evolve the company culture so they that move down that list of leadership styles to finally position of coaching.

Works Cited

Goleman, D. (2000). LEADERSHIP THAT GETS RESULTS. Harvard Business Review, p. 78.

Schlender, B., & Tetzeil, R. (2015, April). Life is too short. Fast Company, pp. 79-82.

Tetzeil, R. (2015, April). The REal Legacy of Steve Jobs. Fast Company, pp. 70-76.

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