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The Importance of Studying Leadership Styles of Prominent Leaders


Discuss about the Leadership  Style of Steve Jobs.

Leadership has been under constant surveillance by the scholars so as to understand the traits and behaviors of true leaders. Leadership is an evolving phenomenon and the world has witnessed different leaders with their personal and unique leadership style. In today’s changing business environment, it is important to study the styles and traits exhibited by the most influential leaders of the world. The most prominent leaders have brought significant changes in the society through their passion, determination and honesty. The history witnesses that every leader had different set of traits and behavior and they adopted an altogether different approaches and styles to contribute towards the development of the society or an organization. The leaders have been left their footprints almost over every sector ranging from politics, military, social activist, technology, healthcare, religion and many more.

Steve Jobs is known for his unconventional and creative leadership style that brought an evolutionary phase in personal computers. The paper would make an attempt to introspect the leadership style of he co-founder and ex-CEO of Apple Steve Jobs by applying various leadership theories and concepts. There are several theories and concepts of leadership and few of them would be presented in the paper to establish firm grounds of leadership.

Leadership is a broad phenomenon and has been defined differently by different scholars and analysts. According to Tannenbaum and Schmidt, leaders are those who assess themselves, their subordinates and the external circumstances to construe appropriate methods and approaches of management. This way they are able to evaluate the potential of their team members and drive them towards a common and shared vision. Thus, their actions are in inferred from the external environment and requirement of the situation. They not only work to achieve goals and objectives, but also ensure the participation and interest level of their subordinates. This is called transactional leadership style. According to Gardener, leadership involves shared vision, constant motivation, management, unified workforce, group representation, integrated values and consistent revival (Patel, 2012). A leader is considered to be visionary who inspires entire workforce by arousing a common sense of purpose through his shared vision (Northouse, 2013).

The model proposed by Rost suggested that leadership comprises of four vital elements: influential relationship, relationship consisting of leaders and followers, an attempt to bring changes by the leaders and followers and a common sense of purpose among leaders and followers. It is important to note here that leaders have more power than their subordinates and play major role in influencing (Westcott, 2014).

With the passage of time, several theories and concepts of leadership have been evolved through various studies conducted by scholars. In order to understand the leadership style of Steve Jobs, few of the theories would be discussed in detail so as to interlink them with his style of management.

Charismatic leaders are gifted with extraordinary behavior and traits that make them more confident to inspire their followers through a common sense of purpose (Patel, 2012). They are able to drive the team towards a common vision through their strong conviction and the followers are also convinced to follow them without questioning them. Trust, affection and loyalty is being developed among the followers and they feel highly appreciated because of their high levels of involvement.

Transactional and Visionary Leadership Styles

Transformational leaders motivate their subordinates by inspiring them towards a common goal and arousing a sense of purpose within them. The leaders are very influential because they transform the followers by setting very high expectations from them (Odumeru & Ifeanyi, 2013).

Steve Jobs was born on February 24, 1955 in San Francisco, California. During his college life, he would skip his classes to attend calligraphy classes and took a job as video game designer in the year 1974 with Atari (Hom, 2013). Though, later he quit his job to in search of spiritual enlightenment in India. It was two years later in 1976, when Steve Jobs with Steve Wozniak discovered Apple in Steve’s father garage (Hom, 2013). With Steve’s charismatic personality and Wozniak’s technical expertise Apple establish strong market position and became a publicly traded company by the year 1980 (Hom, 2013). John Sculley was appointed as the CEO of the company by Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was always focused on products instead of sales and developed Macintosh to compete with IBM. Due to Steve’s persistent behavior and attitude and failure of Macintosh, John Sculley fired him in 1985 from Apple (Hom, 2013).

After leaving Apple, Steve moved towards animated industry to discover NeXT which later on became Pixar Animation Studios with Steve’s huge investment and produced animated movies such as Finding Nemo, The Incredibles. Apple could not pursue success with Steve’s exit and was about to dissolve in the year 1997 (Hom, 2013). It was at that point when Steve was invited to rejoin the company. He slashed down almost all the products with remaining only four products remaining to stabilize the company. Apple prospered under the leadership of Steve Jobs until his illness was discovered in the year 2007 (Hom, 2013). Apple’s stock suffered a huge loss in the market after the news was discovered. Steve handed the position of CEO six months before he died to Tim Cook in 2011 (Hom, 2013). Tim Cook is the current CEO of the company Apple and has an altogether different personality as compared to the former CEO of Apple Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs was a strong charismatic leader who could unite the people through his spellbinding ability. He was bestowed with natural and divine gift that enabled him revolutionize the IT and entertainment industry. Steve would alter his style according to the situation and did not just display same rhetorical style. After he was fired from Apple, he did not give just give up, instead he entered animated industry to change the educational system of the world through Next (Mirror Business, 2015). He always had a great conviction for whatever he did and was also able to articulate his followers. Steve had a charismatic approach that compelled him to focus on products instead of sales of the company. With his strong conviction and charismatic leadership style, his followers trusted him and always relied on him for the growth and success of the organization.

Steve Jobs is known to have demonstrated transformational leadership as his major working style. He always believed in change that he was able to achieve through his visionary skills. He always inspired his followers and focused on transforming them to bring out the best within them that they would have otherwise considered impossible (McKnight, 2013). Some of the personality traits that would help to assess his leadership style are focus, passion, innovation, vision and effective communication (Muenich & Williams, 2013).

The Four Vital Elements of Leadership

Focus was an integral part of Steve’s life. He made consistent efforts to drive his team towards a common vision and would conduct several meetings to grill them by asking questions. He has strongly mastered Zen philosophy and believed that deciding what not to do is equally important as deciding what to do.

Steve Jobs would simplify the products through his visionary skills. When he saw the mouse of Xerox with three buttons and complicated design, he planned to create a mouse with only single button that cost less than the actual mouse (Hom, 2013). He would redefine the problem to solve his people’s problem.

It was Steve Jobs’ passion to market a dent in the universe that he was able to do successfully through revolutionized product range. He used his innovative skills to create graphical user interface for the first time in the history. His unique style of product announcement at the universities by creating thrill and excitement among the students of university is also inspiring (Warwick Business School, 2016).

Under the leadership of Steve Jobs, Apple was able to develop innovative and unique products that have attracted millions of users from all over the world. The main products of Apple are iPhones, iPods and Macs. iPhone and iPod are the phenomenal products of Apple that were developed by Steve Jobs. He asked his chief engineer designer to develop a phone with touch display. Jonathon Ive had faith in Steve Jobs due to which he was able to design the most spectacular phone of the world. Steve developed first iPhone series in 2007 and introduced another version called iphone 3G which was followed by 3GS with improved network and hardware support. Later, Steve enhanced the front facing camera to launch 4S and 5S in the market (Arthur, 2013). Steve Jobs believed in the idea to develop a product that can carry thousands of songs in it and that led to development of iPod. Macintosh was a huge failure when it was first introduced in the market but later on became one of the most selling products of Apple.

When Apple became a public traded company during 1984 its share price was $3.83 that became just half ($1.81) by the mid of the year (Seeking Alpha, 2009). Steve discovered first personal computer Macintosh with the vision to provide an ordinary people with personal computer. The computer had no hard drive and very low RAM due to which it failed terribly in the market. Apple’s stock became dead and did not rise for the next two years in the market.

(Source: Seeking Alpha, 2009).

In May 1985, Steve Jobs left Apple and in June 1985, John Sculley received a proposal from Bill Gates to license Mac OS to Microsoft. After Steve left Apple, the market share declined to $2 per share (Seeking Alpha, 2009). By September 1985, Apple’s share began to rise when it witnessed a sale of 500, 000 Mac. During 1987, Apple’s sales were propelled by licensing Microsoft to use Macintosh technology in its Windows and its market share surged exponentially (Seeking Alpha, 2009). Apple sold one million Macintosh by March 1987 due to which it market share was rising. It was October 17, 1987 when Apple’s market share dropped from $15 to $7 that Apple was somehow able to bring it to $10.5 (Seeking Alpha, 2009). It was August 6, 1997, when Apple’s share price rose by 33.3% after Steve Jobs joined (Seeking Alpha, 2009).

Theories and Concepts of Leadership

The company’s stock fell by around 10% in 2009 when Steve Jobs became ill and news was disclosed (Seeking Alpha, 2009). The share price of Apple came down by more than 5% after the death of Steve Jobs in the year 2011 (Kollewe, 2011).

The company was handed over to the new CEO Tim Cook in the year 2011 six months before the death of Steve Jobs. Apple’s has witnessed consistent market growth under the leadership of Tim Cook as can be inferred from the graph below. The share price rose significantly during 2011 but declines in 2012 after which sales surged till the company’s stock fell by 9% under the in the year 2014 due to which company lost $44 billion (Fox, 2014).

(Source: Titcomb, 2016).

The most disastrous product under the leadership of Tim Cook was Apple maps that did not consider important transport routes (Titcomb, 2016). Apple watch was one of the most selling products by Tim Cook and was able to grab the attention of the users (Titcomb,  2016). iPhones series of 6S and 7S were also introduced by Tim Cook.

Tim Cook became Apple’s CEO in the year 2011. Tim Cook follows servant leadership style as opposed to Steve Jobs’ transformational and charismatic leadership style. He believes in trusting his team members and likes to admit his fault when wrong. He has a reserved personality and likes to listen to others so that he can learn from them. He does not command people or push them to work hard, instead remains humble to receive respect of others. Steve Jobs had a boisterous personality who would always stay at the centre through his critical comments for employees. On the other hand, Tim Cook attentively listens to his subordinates without questioning them and always pay attention to the smaller details of people’s speech.

Steve Jobs always believed in innovation that led to creation of unique featured products including iphone, ipod, ipad and Macintosh. As opposed to Steve Jobs, Tim Cook focused on market expansion for Apple and increased the sales of the company by huge margins. Apple has been able to occupy the market of the two emerging countries of the world China and India under the direction of Tim Cook. Unlike Steve Jobs, Tim Cook has not yet developed any unique products apart from Apple map and watch. On one hand Steve Jobs had the ability to perceive the unknown future, on the other hand Tim Cook wants to create future through Apple’s epic global sales. Tim Cook is more sales oriented unlike Steve, who was product oriented and would put all his efforts into making the unique products.

Steve Jobs was undoubtedly an inspiring and transformational leader who revolutionized the world through his innovative products of Apple. The credit for Apple’s success completely goes to Steve Jobs who was focused, enthusiastic, passionate and unconventional leader. Steve nurtured the company by merging his imagination with technology to develop innovative products. Apple has always witnessed rise in its share price under the leadership of Steve Job who was the only one to sustain the company through his fast pace learning and evolving ability. After the death of Steve Jobs, people have begun to question the leadership orientation of Apple. Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook focus has been to increase the sales of the company through market expansion and penetration. Tim Cook may bee have been able to increase the turnover of the company but have not been able to develop innovative products as opposed to Steve Jobs.

Charismatic and Transformational Leadership Styles

Tim Cook has surged the sales of Apple’s iPhone that has negative and positive both sides. The positive side Apple which was once considered only for the upper class has now become approachable for the middle class consumers and the negative side is that every product goes through a product life cycle of growth, maturity and decline. iPhone has gone through the first two stages so decline stage is bound to come and the company has no new product to introduce in the market. Steve used to compete with his own products by introducing new products in the market due to which Apple was able to maintain its sustainability. Under the leadership of Tim Cook, sustainability of Apple becomes a questionable phenomenon which could pose threat to the company in its near future when Apple’s products would have to face decline phase in the global market.


The report has successfully analyzed the evolving and unique leadership style of Steve Jobs. Steve’s unconventional leadership style brought success to Apple by putting all his efforts into developing innovative products and revolutionizing the IT and music industry. He demonstrated a combination of transformational and charismatic leadership style where transformational being the major style. It was his transformational leadership style that encouraged his followers to push themselves harder by believing in the unseen. It was under his leadership that Apple witnessed a significant growth in the market share and the company went through a dark phase after his exit from the company during 1985.

On the contrary, Tim Cook followed a servant leadership style by staying reserved and focused. Tim Cook has focused on sales instead of products and has expanded the market of the company by surging the sales and attaining driving huge profits. On one hand Steve has revolutionized the IT and music industry and marked a dent in the universe through his iconic and everlasting products, on the other hand, Tim Cook has taken the legacy of Steve beyond the country and entered almost every market of world.


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