Welcome to the Vital Integrities Blog

Apple's Golden Leader

Leadership: "A process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal." Peter Northouse

Since his death last week, much has been written about the way Steve Jobs ran Apple. By all accounts, he was a mix of creative genius and business acumen who influenced every aspect of the company's day-to-day operations. Since returning in 1997 to the company he cofounded, Jobs led Apple from near extinction to extraordinary levels of profitability and shareholder returns.

As a marketer, Jobs wielded a cult-like influence. His keynote product unveilings played to standing-room-only crowds of Apple loyalists, who hung on his every word. Video downloads of his speeches often strained the Internet for days afterward. Indeed, no CEO has ever excited customers the way Jobs did.

As a manager of employees, Jobs exhibited the characteristics associated with charismatic leaders. He had a dominant, often overbearing, personality. He could arouse creativity one moment and elicit tears the next. He acknowledged brilliance as well as ineptitude -- he sought out the former while dismissing the latter. To many, his charisma was as disheartening as it was inspiring.

But in his own defense, Jobs claimed that he was merely fulfilling his leadership responsibility to ensure that people gave their best efforts. To his credit, many former employees report that, despite Jobs' harsh management style, he inspired their finest work. Along the way, he focused Apple's human resources on making its products perfectly.

Jobs was so closely associated with Apple's identity that many observes worry that the company's culture – and for that matter, its financial success -- might not outlive him. Although he assembled an impressive group of senior managers, Jobs selected his lieutenants more for their creative gifts than their leadership skills. However, Apple's Jobs-led cultural obsession with perfection results in a workplace form of natural selection, with gifted employees known to drive away misfits by refusing to tolerate underperforming coworkers.

Steve Jobs was a charismatic leader, a creative mastermind who could exhibit daunting arrogance, and who simultaneously inspired and intimidated Apple employees. He will be missed by anyone who enjoys studying leadership.
Bookmark this post on del.icio.us

What do you think? Post a Comment
Vital Integrities Blog - Blogged