A report evaluating the leadership of a 21st century leader of an organisation: A focus on Steve Jobs.

Executive summary

Leadership is essential to the growth and development of all organisations. However various leaders exhibit different leadership characteristics which can affect the efficiency of employee at the workplace. The distinct leadership styles possessed by leaders are what distinguish a good leader from a bad leader. The current report discusses a CEO (Steve Jobs) of an international organisation (Apple Incorporated). Also, relevant theories and models are used to critically evaluate and analyse the leadership style of the leader. The report also presents an alternative leadership approach that would be adopted to improve employee commitment and ensure productivity.

Table of content

Executive summary……………………………………………………………………………………………………… i

1.0 Introduction…………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 1

2.0 Description of the leader and situation……………………………………………………………………. 1

2.1 Case study area and situation……………………………………………………………………………… 2

3.0 Evaluation of the leadership of Steve Jobs……………………………………………………………….. 3

3.1 Leadership model of Steve job……………………………………………………………………………. 3

3.2  The leadership style, behavior, traits, attitudes and power of Steve Jobs………………… 5

4.0 How a leader can act differently which would have a stronger impact on the followers.. 8

1.0 Introduction

According to Hughes, Ginnett and Curphy (2012), the word Leadership is synonymous with words like risk taking, dynamic, creativity, change, and vision. Similarly, leaders are regarded by many as the backbone and lifeblood of most organisations (Chowdhury, 2014). However, being a leader is not an easy task as it requires one to possess certain characteristics that can encourage followership. Walter (2007) describes a leader as an individual who have the trait and characteristics to influence a group of people towards the achievement of a set goal. According to Weihrich, Cannice and Koontz (2008), the responsibilities of a leader is a vital tool for harnessing the potentials of a group of people, and ultimately accomplishing a targeted goal. The distinct leadership styles possessed by leaders are what identify a good leader from a bad leader (Hughes, et al., 2012). This report discusses a CEO (Steve Jobs) of an international organisation (Apple Incorporated). Similarly, relevant theories and models, are used to critically evaluate and analyse the leadership styles of the leader. The report also presents an alternative leadership approach that would be adopted to make a stronger impact on the followers and on the situation in the company.

2.0 Description of the leader and situation

Steve Jobs is the CEO and co-founder of apple. Steve Jobs was born on 24th February, 1955, in San Francisco, California, and was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs. He lived with the daughter of his adopted parents all of his life until he was of aged to take his decisions. His adopted father, Paul Jobs was a machinist who liked to fix cars as a hobby.  Steve had no information about his biological parents until he was 24 years of age.

Schooling was the passion of Steve since his childhood days. Steve completed high school in 1972 and joined Reed College in Portland, Oregon. He schooled there for two years until he dropped out to study Eastern religions in India around 1974.  After a year Steve decided to join a computer group known as the Homebrew Computer Club. During his participation in the group he met a technical whiz named Steve Wozniak who as at that time was developing small computers. Steve became fascinated with the idea and decided to partner Steve Wozniak. A year after Steve joined the club, he and Steve Wozniak formed their company and developed their first computer. They generated almost $775,000 from the sale of their computers.

Considering how fast sales boots, they decided to come out with a better model and sell to individuals. In the third year, they were able to sell $200 million worth of computer.  Upon seeing how the company was expanding, Steve decided to employ some of his former employees to help him expand the company.  According to some of his ex-employees of Apple and NeXT, he was intolerant of anything he viewed as failure and his foul-mouthed tirades were the stuff of legend. Stories said about him by his followers shows that Steve believed in being brutally honest with his followers without considering their feelings. Steve possessed traits that is remarkable astonishing when it comes to leading and management.

2.1 Case study area and situation

The report below examined the leadership of the CEO and co-founder of Apple.  The CEO of Apple is a classic example of an individual who was probably not born as a leader but with constant learning and improvement on his leadership skills and abilities, he was able to become an effective leader. With the kind of leadership skills he exhibited whiles he was incharge of Apple Incorporated, the company is regarded as one of the well-known technology companies in the world, and its popularity continues to grow with each passing year. Below is the background information of the CEO and co-founder of Apple.

3.0 Evaluation of the leadership of Steve Jobs

Even though many followers of Steve saw him as been an influential and innovative leader, Steve was not the sole founder of Apple but his devotion and leadership skills was what led the organisation into becoming the most powerful technology companies in the world. He was known for being demanding and hardworking and his unique leadership and characteristics are deemed hard to mimic. With the use of relevant models and theories, the leadership of Steve is discussed below. 

3.1 Leadership model of Steve job

By definition, leadership is a persistent relationship, which transpires regularly among participants, who use their individual skills and abilities in influencing and transforming change. The leadership model of Steve jobs hovers around the following leadership models.

  1. Situational leadership model

Every situation is different and has its unique way of addressing it. Thus, the method used by a leader in one situation will not always work in another. The situational leadership model is also known as the life cycle theory. According to Peretomode (2012), this theory has to do with the level of guidance, direction, and also the support given by a leader to his or her followers or group. This theory can take two categories which entails task behaviours and relationship behaviours. The task behaviour is the practice, where the leader communicates what and how to execute an activity, task or assignment to his or her followers. On the other hand, the relationship behaviours refers to a situation where the leader engages with his or her follower by listening, encouraging, supporting and explain a task to the followers.

Ideally, the leadership style adopted by the leader is mostly based on the leaders believe, personality, the situation at the exact period and in some instances the working environment.  Steve jobs had the ability to adapt easily to multiple situations. Steve also had the perfect timing and method to confront an employee for inappropriate behaviour or failure on the job. Steve was also known by many for being too focused on work to care about others’ feelings which was one of the reasons Apple incorporated cut ties with him at a one point in time in the history of the company. Although this theory reflect on how situation normally has a greater effect on a leader’s action than his or her traits, Steve was still too focused on work to care about the feelings of his employees as head of Apple Incorporated.

  1.       ii.            Path-goal theory

The Path-goal theory deals with the expectancy, a cognitive approached to understanding motivation. Nonetheless, the theory share tenet with the expectancy theory. This theory specifies that, different leadership approach can be used for diverse individuals and vice versa. This theory emphasis on this because it believes that followers will always support their leader so long as they are of the view that the actions being undertaken by their leader will eventually lead to their satisfaction. In this theory it can be stated that, the actions of the leader strengthen the beliefs of follower’s. Leaders may use different styles with different subordinates and different style with the same subordinate in different situation to attain a desired goal. This theory embraces four leadership behaviours. This include the directive leadership where the leader focuses on guiding his followers on what they are expected to do, how to do it, when to do it as well as how their work fits in with the works of others. Supportive leadership is another leadership behaviour under this theory where the leader demonstrates a relationship with followers that are friendly and caring. Participative and achievement oriented leadership are other behaviours embraced under this theory.

Above all other things, Steve Jobs had a vision and this creative vision challenged his employees and drove them to act with his vision as well. He was always thinking of the future and always had a clear idea of what he wanted to move towards. This vision helped Jobs pull his followers together and directed, supported, and assisted them to work towards a common goal whenever he had a new idea for the future of Apple.

  1. Normative decision model

As propounded by Victor Vroom and Yetton in 1973, the normative decision model refers to the amount of contribution followers make during a decision-making process in organisation (Forsyth, 2009). This theory indicated that, the level of input a subordinate has in decision making varies substantially depending on the issue, the follower technical expertise or the presence or absence of crises.

Failing to listen to employees and help employees to feel that their opinions are valued was a trait that was exhibited by Steve jobs. Despite his inner acknowledgement for his subordinates or workers, Steve never outwardly acknowledged his worker for a work well done or make them feel their voice and opinions were being acknowledge. However, he was persistence when it came to making his worker aware of the importance of their input to the development.

3.2   The leadership style, behavior, traits, attitudes and power of Steve Jobs

  1. Leadership style

Nanjundeswaraswamy and Swamy (2014) described leadership style as a social influence where a leader is able to seek the voluntary participation of followers or subordinates in order to achieve or reach the goals and objectives of the organization. Base on their definition, it can be deduced that, leadership style is critical to the effective operation of an organisation or a business. However, there are several leadership styles exhibited by leaders. A leader may practice a transformational leadership style, transactional leadership, moral leadership, constructivist leadership, servant leadership, charismatic leadership, adaptive leadership, autocratic leadership, authoritative leadership, laissez-fair leadership, situational leadership, spiritual leadership, servant-leadership, etc.

Considering the approach of leadership used by Steve jobs which many saw as an arrogant style of leadership, an evaluation of his activities depict that Steve practiced a situational leadership style. Steve had a clear vision, passion for the company and its people, and an ability to inspire trust in his followers. Steve Kept an acute awareness of his leadership-related strengths and areas for development, which was a critical skill set when dealing with activities related to the organisation. He was able to implement initiative that helped speed up development by creating productive teams who follow his objectives.

  1. Behavior

The behaviour of a leader plays a major role in affecting employee satisfaction. Differentiating between an effective and ineffective leader requires looking out for the behaviours exhibited by a leaders and the output. With the use of a Leader Behaviour Description Questionnaire (LBDQ), the Ohio State University was able to identify two independent dimensions of behaviours. This includes consideration and initiating structure. Consideration structure in this context refers to the friendliness and supportiveness of a leader towards his followers. Most leaders with this behaviour tend to show great concern for subordinates by speaking for subordinate interest and showing appreciation for their work. Steve Job has an inverse strategy, he had an arrogant style of leadership and was not driven by his own ego or by some self-interested needs. Steve was at times arrogant and nasty. His followers viewed his behaviours in the context of the above qualities.

  1. Traits

A trait is simply a number of personal qualities or characteristics that are recurrent in a person’s behaviour (Yukl, 2006). In this regard, a regular pattern of leadership performance, or for that matter, any leadership style is subject to the recurring personal qualities of a leader. There are five major traits that every leader should have and they are intelligence, determination, self-confidence, integrity and sociability (Northouse, 2016). On the other hand, impulsivity, perfectionism, narcissism, insensitivity, argumentative and fear of failure are traits every leader should avoid (Northouse, 2016).  

Steve Jobs had such a rude and abrasive personality trait that he would yell at his colleagues and team anytime if things did not go well or according to his expectations. There were also many instances where he embarrassed people in interviews. Steve Jobs was never satisfied and kept trying irrationally for something better than before. He was determined and confident to achieve the best results.

  1. Attitude

Attitude is a characteristic that shapes a leader (Northouse, 2016). A leader with the right attitude is an asset to an organisation since the actions portrayed by the leader greatly influences the behaviour of followers. Steve demonstrated a high sense of positive leadership attitude and this same attitude is carried out by his followers. One thing about Steve was that, he never appraises his workers for the good work done. However, he views problems as temporary and controllable and thus imbibes this trait in his workers. Thus, he always admonishes his followers that defeat is a temporary setback.  Steve’s attitude to setbacks is more of a disaster. Thus, he viewed hurdles as challenges to be overcome and, thus pushed his followers to try harder and put in their best constantly.

4.0 How a leader can act differently which would have a stronger impact on the followers

It is worth noting that all leaders have their unique ways and style of reacting to situations and activities. Steve Jobs leadership style certainly helped Apple to expand and developed successfully over the past years. However, given the same role as a leader in the organisation (Apple incorporated), I would have adopted a transformational leadership style.

A transformational leader inspires others to follow a vision. According to, Riaz, and Haider, (2010), a transformational leader transforms his followers thinking in such a way that they adopt the vision of the organization as if that vision was their own. This transformation motivates employees to overcome their own interests and strive for the collective goals (Bass and Avolio, 1994).  Although Steve Job exhibited some trait of a transformational leadership style, his approach used to make his followers adopt the vision of the organization was too autocratic.  These among other things are the reason why his followers saw his leadership style to be arrogant.

Also by adapting a transactionary leadership style, a leader can be able to attempt and successfully raise his colleagues, subordinates, followers or clients to a greater level of awareness and appreciation of issues to the organisation. The appropriate implementation of transformational leadership can influence the extent to which the leader generates trust amongst followers (Judge & Piccolo, 2004). Steve’s style of leadership did inspire his followers but his leadership style did not assist in generating trust from his followers. Another dimension of a transformational leadership that can be adopted to impact greatly on followers is the inspirational motivation characteristics which the leader presents, to motivate the followers. Steve Jobs was a leader who did not acknowledged his employees for a success on a job. However, his was intolerant when there is a failure on the job.  By motivating followers, the leader may improve the moral and confidence of followers to put in the very best in executing an activity. Intellectual stimulation characterizes   a dimension which may impact on followers when adopted. This dimension has to do with the extent to which a leader encourages followers to be innovative and challenge themselves on a job. Here the leader may push his follower into achieving the vision of Apple, by adopting an approach which constantly encourage the followers to be innovative. Finally, the leader need to care about the individual need of the followers.  Communicating and listening to the voice of the followers help the leader to probe in the needs of individual.  In spite of the challenges that may confront the leader as he adopts a transformational leadership, a study by Yammarino, and Dubinsky, (1994) indicated that, transformational leadership has a positive and important effect on employee or followers job performance. Thus, the adoption of this leadership style will significantly impact on the growth of organization.


  • Transformational leadership and organizational culture. Int. J. Publ. Adm., 17, 

  • Chowdhury R, G., (2014). A study on the impact of leadership styles on employee motivation and commitment: An empirical study of selected organizations’ in corporate sector. Unpublished thesis submitted to Patil University, Navi Mumbai.
  • Forsyth, D. R. (2009). Group Dynamics. New York: Wadsworth
  • Hughes, R. L., Ginnett, R. C., & Curphy, G. J. (2012). Leadership: Enhancing The Lessons of Experience. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.,
  • Judge, T.A. and Piccolo, R.F (2004). Transformational and transactional leadership: A meta-analytic test of their relative validity. pp, 89, 755. 

  • Nanjundeswaraswamy T. S. & Swamy D. R., (2014). Leadership style. Advance Management 7(2), pp 57- 62.
  • Northouse, P. (2016). Leadership Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications Inc.
  • Peretomode O., (2012). Situational And Contingency Theories Of Leadership: Are They The Same? Journal of Business and Management 4(3) pp 13-17.
  • Riaz, A., & Haider, M. H. (2010). Role of transformational and transactional leadership on job satisfaction and career satisfaction. BEH – Business and Economic Horizons, 1(1), 29-38.
  • Walter, F. (2007). The Development of Effective Leadership: Investigating the Antecedents of Charismatic and Prevention-Oriented Leadership Behaviors. Retrieved February8,2018 From; https://www1.unisg.ch/www/edis.nsf/SysLkpByIdentifier/3415/$FILE/dis3415.pdf
  • Weihrich, H., Cannice, M.V., & Koontz, H. (2008). Management. New Delhi: McGraw Hill.
  • Yammarino, F.J. and Dubinsky, A.J. (1994). Transformational leadership theory: using levels of analysis to determine boundary conditions. Pers. Psychol., pp47, 787–811.
  • Yukl, G. (2006). Leadership in Organisations (6th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Leave a Reply